Hundreds of medical journals call on the WHO to declare an emergency over “catastrophic harm”

Over 200 medical journals called for the World Health Organization to declare environmental crises a global health emergency. The journals included overlapping issues, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

Pleading for emergency

The experts called for the WHO to declare an emergency before or during the World Health Assembly in May 2024, CBC News’ Lauren Pelley reported. Medical journal The BMJ published a piece that summarized the crisis, with the authors outlining the hazardous impact of rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions across the globe, and loss of wildlife.

No time to waste

Dr. Gaurab Basu, the director of education and policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, said, “An emergency declaration helps us realize that we’ve got to act with thought — but also with haste.” lead author Kamran Abbasi, who is editor in chief of the British Medical Journal shared, “The climate crisis and loss of biodiversity both damage human health, and they are interlinked.”

“Disruption of social and economic systems”

The piece called the interlinked crisis as an additional factor in the “disruption of social and economic systems.” Abbasi further stated, “It makes no sense for climate and nature scientists and politicians to consider the health and nature crises in separate silos.” The authors agreed that the two issues cannot be treated separately, and in doing so, people would make a “dangerous mistake.”

“Catastrophic harm” to human health

The piece also said that the two emergencies are already causing “catastrophic harm” to human health. Dr. Maria Neira, director of the WHO’s Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, already addressed the editorial piece, repeating that the WHO has been saying for ages “very strongly, and very loudly” that the climate crisis is a health crisis. She also noted that climate change will be discussed at the UN’s meeting, but declaring an emergency would be tricky.

This is a chronic issue

Unlike the pandemics, the problems caused by global warming, climate changes, and loss of wildlife are chronic, so they need to be treated long-term, Neira reminded. Dr. Bass admitted that an emergency declaration would not achieve much, though it would bring scientists and governments closer together to attempt to find the solution.

The doctor is cautiously optimistic

Dr. Bass added, “I think it would lead to more action, and it would get a lot of attention,” and continued, “But I can’t pretend that suddenly overnight everything would be all right.” The emergency would make the issue more visible, with valuable and provable information being more accessible to the public.

The numbers are alarming

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated that by 2050, over 1.2 billion people will be forced to leave their homes if the overheating of the planet continues. Another potential threat comes from diseases, while the effects on quality foods have already been noticed. Scientists have already delivered a “final warning” on the climate crisis earlier this year, but many seem to be unmotivated.

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