A new report entitled The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment has been formally unveiled at the White House on Monday the 4th April 2016. The findings aim to support decision making at all levels in preparing for and managing the multifaceted health risks posed by a warming planet.
The report also offers evidence that can be used to raise climate ambition, strengthening a line of work on climate and health that has received increasing political attention in the past years. For instance, Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) was co-initiated by the U.S. in 2012, for which global negative health effects of air pollution were a major motivation.
The report, released by the Obama administration, illustrates the serious public health threats posed by climate change today and in the future, especially to vulnerable groups described by the report as populations of concern. Some of the factors cited in the report are: extreme summer heat which can increase the number of premature deaths, poor air quality which can affect the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems, risks of increased water-related illnesses and the risks posed by increased extreme weather events.
Last year, several actors highlighted the need to act on climate change to safeguard public health, often pointing out significant health benefits of emission mitigation. These actors include, notably, the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change (2015) and the World Health Organisation (2015). Specifically, exposure to air pollution causes 8 million deaths annually, as stated in a resolution by the World Health Assembly of 26 May 2015. Health impacts related to air pollution are estimated at an average of 4 % of the GDP for the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
According to U.S. officials, the research conducted by 100 experts for the Climate and Health Assessment signifies, to date, the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the health impacts of climate change within the U.S. The report expands upon the 2014 National Climate Assessment. The U.S. Government’s Fact Sheet on the assessment also points towards climate action taken by the Obama administration, for example the Clean Power Plan that has caused such domestic controversy.
In his address on this year’s World Cities Day, UN-Secretary General António Guterres recognised that “cities have borne the brunt of the pandemic” and called upon governments to “prepare cities for future disease outbreaks”. Authorities cannot waste this opportunity to build back better by simultaneously addressing the increasing economic hardship for the urban poor and climate change impacts. This will help prevent not only future health risks but also the increased risk of urban violence and insecurity.
The new group will try to advance climate policies, even as some of its members are likely to clash. Critics say the group’s efforts won’t go far enough.
With climate change increasingly affecting food production in South Asia, it is time to focus on making food markets more resilient to climate shocks.
Michael Keating, Executive Director at the European Institue of Peace (EIP), argues that peacebuilding and conflict resolution must not disregard the impacts of the climate crisis on livelihoods, social cohesion and conflict resolution.