Climate & Health: Four Proposals for a Healthy Future
The new Lancet Countdown shows that with a changing climate health risks are increasing globally. The Institute of Epidemiology at Helmholtz Zentrum München together with partners proposed policy recommendations in the Lancet Countdown Policy Brief for Germany.
Many people around the world are already suffering from health impacts of climate change. In Germany, for example, heatwaves become more frequent and more intense. These can be fatal, most of all for older people or those with pre-existing conditions. Further, extreme weather events or emerging pathogens may harm human health, too. In the “Lancet Countdown 2020”, experts from various disciplines are therefore calling on policymakers to take decisive action to achieve the UN climate protection goals and to avert climate-related health risks.
The Lancet Countdown is an annual report on climate and health published by the internationally renowned medical journal “Lancet”. This year’s report was compiled by 38 leading academic institutions and UN organizations worldwide. Alongside the international report, scientists wrote a national policy brief for Germany. The Lancet Countdown Policy Brief for Germany is jointly published by the Institute of Epidemiology of Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Medical Association (Bundesärztekammer), the Medical Faculty of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The Lancet policy brief for Germany identifies four points of urgent action:
- Successful climate and health protection and an active economic policy are interdependent and can reinforce each other. Therefore, initiatives to strengthen and rebuild the economy after the corona pandemic should use synergistic effects for climate protection. Otherwise, there is a risk of drastic consequences for life and health and of negative developments that will also shape the fate of future generations.
- Nutrition is an important factor with which every citizen can influence the climate. Food production is responsible for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions – with animal husbandry being the most important factor. At the same time, our diets, with a large proportion of animal-based and highly processed foods, has a major impact on chronic and life-threatening diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatism and cancer. The changeover to a healthy and sustainable diet is also climate-friendly. Together with a more active lifestyle, this can significantly reduce the high proportion of non-infectious diseases (NCDs).
- In Europe, the transport sector is responsible for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. It is becoming increasingly clear that air pollution is also a significant risk factor for many diseases, probably including COVID-19. Non-motorized mobility and physical activity, on the other hand, counteract climate change, reduce air pollution and at the same time promote health. A transport policy consistently geared to reducing emissions with pedestrian-friendly roads, cycle paths and user-friendly local public transport is therefore central to health and climate. This again demonstrates the important role that municipalities play in the necessary transformation of the economy and the society.
- Urban settings not only lead to a rise in temperature, they also have the potential to massively advance the necessary transformative change towards sustainability. The urban environment has a decisive influence on the health of its inhabitants. Local and municipal measures can transform these spaces in such a way that they promote health while at the same time driving forward social, economic and ecological development. Environmental and health effects must therefore be integrated into urban and regional planning.
Read the Policy Brief for Germany 2020: <link www.lancetcountdown.org/resources/ - extern>www.lancetcountdown.org/resources </link>
Read the global Lancet Countdown Report 2020: <link www.lancetcountdown.org/2020-report/ - extern>http://www.lancetcountdown.org/2020-report/ </link>