Last week, medical journals have jointly published an editorial pointedly calling for world leaders to take emergency action to transform societies and limit climate change, restore biodiversity, and protect health.
These journals are broadly representative of world regions and of health disciplines. The editorial will be published in over 220 leading journals, including The Lancet, The British Medical Journal, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the New England Journal of Medicine, the International Nursing Review, the National Medical Journal of India, the Revista de Saúde Pública (Brazil), and the Medical Journal of Australia.
The editorial makes two main arguments: governments must do everything possible to stay below a global increase of 1.5C and to restore nature in order to avoid a catastrophe for health, and that can be achieved only by governments in high-income countries doing far more to support the rest of the world.
This is not the first time that the health community has rallied together for urgent climate action. In May 2020, 40 million health professionals signed a letter asking governments to prioritise green investments as they wade their way through a pandemic. Earlier this year, during the World Health Assembly held in Geneva, doctors concerned about the effects on public health of environmental degradation handed over a set of demands to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, demanding health authorities make climate change and biodiversity loss their top priorities.
The editorial is being published in advance of the UN General Assembly, one of the last international meetings taking place before the (COP26) climate conference in Glasgow, UK in November. This is a crucial moment to urge all countries to deliver enhanced and ambitious climate plans to honour the goals of the Paris Agreement. In a year of Covid-19 and crucial environmental conferences, the editorial warns that the greatest threat to global public health into the future is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C and to restore nature.