A cleaner, greener world may not only be good for the environment. There are also incredible benefits to public health and economic development, according to a new report from the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change.
In this One More Question interview, we asked Watts what scares him the most about global climate change.
“Responding to climate change could be the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century,” said Nick Watts, Head of Project for the Lancet Commission. “There are lots of things that are good for climate change, that help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, that are also really good for public health.”
The report notes the health benefits that have historically been tied to economic development. But, it says, climate change “threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health.”
That’s because world governments spend a combined $6.8 trillion on health care each year. And because of the adverse impacts of climate change on public health, including more frequent and more severe natural disasters, that spending is projected to increase in the years ahead.
“If there is economic development that’s based off fossil fuels and doesn’t incorporate a strong transition to a low carbon world, there won’t be the net gains for public health that we’ve seen in the past,” Watts said.
The Lancet report includes an action plan for the next five years, noting investment in public health research, strengthening health systems, shifting to low-carbon sources of energy, and encouraging a healthier lifestyle. The report highlights the importance of shifting away from coal-powered energy production, an effort already underway in countries like China.
“A swap from, for example, coal fired power to low carbon energy sources, the [health] benefits are felt immediately,” Watts said. “The benefits are felt within the coming weeks when air pollution decreases. You see a decreased rate of cardiovascular and respiratory disease, reduced hospital admissions and as a result cost savings for the healthcare system.”
The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change is comprised of experts from several countries, including the U.K. and China.
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CCTV-America’s Asieh Namdar filed this report.
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