This has to be the year the world changes course – our health depends on it.
More than 200 health journals worldwide are publishing an editorial calling on leaders to take emergency action on climate change and protect health.
The BMJ said it is the first time so many journals have come together to make the same statement, reflecting the severity of the situation.
The editorial, which is being published ahead of the UN General Assembly and the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, says: “Ahead of these pivotal meetings, we – the editors of health journals worldwide – call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.
“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.
“The science is unequivocal; a global increase of 1.5C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.
“Despite the world’s necessary preoccupation with Covid-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.
“Reflecting the severity of the moment, this editorial appears in health journals across the world.
“We are united in recognising that only fundamental and equitable changes to societies will reverse our current trajectory.”
It adds: “The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature.
“Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world.
“We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course.”
Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of The BMJ, and one of the co-authors of the editorial, said: “Health professionals have been on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis and they are united in warning that going above 1.5C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will bring the next, far deadlier crisis.
“Wealthier nations must act faster and do more to support those countries already suffering under higher temperatures. 2021 has to be the year the world changes course – our health depends on it.”
The editorial will appear in The BMJ, The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, the Medical Journal of Australia, and 50 BMJ specialist journals including BMJ Global Health and Thorax.
Catherine Wylie is a reporter with PA.