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Climate change poses an “immediate and escalating” threat to health and security around the globe and must be tackled urgently, warned leading experts at a high-level meeting hosted by the British Medical Journal in London this week.
Opening the conference, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne urged governments around the world to limit the impact of climate change for a “cleaner, healthier, safer future for us all.”
A statement released at the meeting from signatories including Professor Sir Ian Gilmore (former president of the Royal College of Physicians), Dr Richard Horton (Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet) and other scientists, environmental health experts and public figures, warns that climate change will bring a “global health catastrophe”.
It urges the EU to adopt urgently a 30% CO2 greenhouse gas reduction target by 2020 and national governments “to strive to adopt climate change mitigation targets and policies that are more ambitious than their international commitments.”
Professor Hugh Montgomery, Director of the UCL Institute for Human Health and Performance, said: “It is not enough for politicians to deal with climate change as some abstract academic concept. The price of complacency will be paid in human lives and suffering, and all will be affected.
“Tackling climate change can avoid this, while related lifestyle changes independently produce significant health benefits. It is time we saw true leadership from those who would profess to take such a role.”
The statement outlines how rising temperatures and weather instability will lead to more frequent and extreme weather events, loss of habitat and habitation, water and food shortages, spread of diseases, ecosystem collapse and threats to livelihood, potentially triggering mass migration and conflict within and between countries.
It says that tackling climate change could “significantly cut rates of premature death and disability for hundreds of millions of people around the world.”