photo: Sander Hoogendoorn/Creative Commons
As the US House of Representatives votes to side with polluters and put profits over health by stopping the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, a letter in the British Medical Journal once again reminds us that both the world's leading medical and military professionals think combatting climate change is of critical importance. The whole letter is worth reading, but here's the heart of the matter:
Damage to the fabric of human society is bad for human health. It can occur for reasons other than war. A recent report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has highlighted that the effects of climate change will present a threat to collective security and global order in the first half of the 21st century. This will limit access to food, safe water, power, sanitation, and health services and drive mass migration and competition for remaining resources. Starvation, diarrhoea, and infectious diseases will become more common, and neonatal and adult mortality will rise, as a result of conflict. In accordance with this, in 2004, seven of the 10 countries with the highest mortality rates in children under 5 were conflict or immediate post-conflict societies. [...](h/t Climate Progress)
It might be considered unusual for the medical and military professions to concur. But on this subject we do. Climate change poses an immediate and grave threat, driving ill health and increasing the risk of conflict, such that each feeds on the other. And like all good medicine, prevention is the key. The IISS report stresses the need for "sustained investment in infrastructure and new technologies" of which "a shift to renewable energy sources will be the most visible effect of efforts to mitigate emissions." Approaches that reduce demand, including efforts to increase efficiency, are also required.