Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Evidence supports urgent action to avoid grave health consequences from climate change

A press release from the World Health Organization: Evidence is linking climate change to five major health consequences—disease and injury from extreme weather events; changing distribution of insect-borne diseases; diarrhoeal disease from water scarcity or flooding; compromised food security; and air pollution. Over 300 heads of government, leading scientists and development partners agreed that without adequate action climate change poses unacceptable risks to global public health, and they put forward ways for increasing health in tandem with climate change mitigation and adaptation at the WHO’s first-ever Conference on Health and Climate in Geneva, Switzerland, on 27–29 August 2014.

Examples underscoring the urgent need to address climate change as a health issue are rapidly mounting. One of the 128 European region participants from 32 countries attending the Conference, Elisabetta Colaiacomo from Italy’s Ministry for the Environment Land and Sea, described t
hat, “Italy, and the Mediterranean basin, is very much a ‘hot point’ for the impacts of climate change. Extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts and heat-waves, are more frequent now than in the past and present a distinct climate-related threat to health. Urgent actions are needed to develop a prompt response to all the threats to the environment and health. These actions will need to consider local and regional relevance, tackling issues in a concrete and intersectoral manner.” Colaiacomo added, “It is our commitment to work for concrete co-benefits, and bringing together the health and environment communities to strengthen a common dialogue and speak with a stronger voice to face the common challenges.”

...Reflected in the implementation of the Parma “Commitment to act” and the European Regional Framework for Action is the need to develop a health sector that can optimally fulfill a leadership role in climate change mitigation, such as by identifying critical health consequences and reducing carbon emissions from operations. Ainash Sharshenova, Scientific and Production Centre for Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health, Kyrgyzstan, said, “Kyrgyzstan is a very mountainous country; almost 90% of the land area is more than 1,500m above sea level. As such, we experience specific impacts of climate change, such as melting glaciers and increases in desertification. These effects are having impacts on health through flooding and landslides, as well as extreme weather events. I think it is very important that the health sector leads by example. In Kyrgyzstan, WHO and UNDP/GEF have supported innovation in energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in the health sector. By promoting the use of renewable energy sources and energy-saving technologies in the health sector we have shown that it is sustainable, it can enhance business continuity in rural areas, and it supports both climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

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