Each year, according to the WHO, air pollution results in 7 million premature deaths. Burning fossil fuels is one of the main sources of air pollution and poses an existential threat to our health. This is only one aspect of the many ways that climate change negatively impacts human health. Climate change also contributes to increased heat strokes and deaths due to extreme weather events. These effects put the viability of all of our health systems at greater risk every day. We must not forget that the ultimate objective of this convention is to protect people and the planet against the adverse effects of climate change on health and welfare.
As future medical professionals, we diagnose climate change as a medical emergency, and it must be treated that way. When someone arrives in the emergency room suffering from a life-threatening condition, you expect healthcare workers to act. Fortunately, there is a treatment available for this medical emergency: strong climate action. This includes, but is not limited to, phasing-out fossil fuels and the use of sustainable infrastructure strategies.
Addressing the root causes of climate change comes with substantial health benefits. These benefits are so significant that for some policies, they can entirely offset the costs of adaptation and mitigation. Such is the case for smart urban planning and transport schemes.
Nevertheless, we see a disappointing lack of progress in the most important modalities currently being negotiated. As future medical professionals, every day we will be trusted to work according to science and evidence-based guidelines. Choosing not to acknowledge the latest science violates our professions” ethos and should violate yours as well.
The outcomes of these negotiations will impact core determinants of health €“ clean air, safe water, and shelter. We, therefore, urge all parties to work with the latest science, welcome the IPCC 1.5° report, and implement all necessary measures to stay below 1.5 degrees.