Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility. Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health
"Health of People, Health of Planet and Our Responsibility. Climate Change, Air Pollution and Health" provides a unique perspective on the multidimensional aspects of the health impacts of climate change and air pollution, which include the science, impacts, solutions, and advocacy of the solutions. The book is intended to add a new approach to climate change by focusing on its health impacts from a multidisciplinary understanding that can be used for academic, political, faith, community, and activism purposes. The authors of the 33 chapters have expertise in an impressive array of topics relevant to the book. We have attempted to make the text in the scientific chapters less technical and more understandable by non scientists, yet the book has enough technical background and scientific rigor to make it relevant to higher education and professional entities and individuals for use in teaching and practice.
More importantly,the authors have made it freely available online to reach every individual across the globe, including traditionally less involved populations and regions that are most affected by the consequences of climate change.Even though the influence of humans on climate change has been established through extensive published evidence and reports, the connection between climate change, the health of the planet, and the impacts on human health has not received the same level of attention. Therefore, the global focus on the public health impacts of climate change is a recent area of interest triggered by two recent international initiatives, one by the World Health Organization and the other by The Lancet, known as the Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health.
The majority of the previous work on the health impacts of climate change was limited to epidemiological approaches and outcomes, and less focused on multidisciplinary, multifaceted collaboration between physical scientists, public health researchers, and policy makers. Further, the context of faith and ethics as the underpinning of such multi-disciplinary approaches was not previously explored.
Interfaith dialogue on the health of people, the health of the planet, and our responsibility is most valuable and important when focused on humanitarian needs. Collaboration and cooperation are best suited to helping those suffering from floods, droughts, crop failures, famines, migration, and other cataclysmic events, regardless of the causes. When crises come to countries and communities of varied religions, all people of faith should step forward to rescue and restore together. Read also Declaration: Our Planet, Our Health, Our Responsibility, principal findings and proposed solutions (pp.11-13)
The gravity of the environmental impacts of climate change on human health, the planet’s ecosystem, and the inter correlations between them—to the degree that it is threatening our very existence and the natural systems that sustain the planet—is real. We therefore need to act immediately and in a holistic approach to be able to make a difference.
We declare that governments and other stakeholders should urgently undertake the scalable and practical solutions listed below:
- Health must be central to policies that stabilize climate change below dangerous levels, drive zero carbon as well as zero air pollution, and prevent ecosystem disruptions.
- All nations should implement with urgency the global commitments made in Agenda 2030 (including the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations) and the Paris Climate Agreement.
- Decarbonize the energy system as early as possible and no later than midcentury, shifting from coal, oil, and gas to wind, solar, geothermal, and other zero-carbon energy sources.
- The rich should not only expeditiously shift to safe energy and land-use practices but also provide financing to the poor for the costs of adapting to climate change.
- Rapidly reduce hazardous air pollutants, including the short-lived climate pollutants methane, ozone, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons.
- End deforestation and land degradation, and restore degraded lands to pro-tect biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions, and absorb atmospheric carbon into natural sinks.
- To accelerate decarbonization, there should be effective carbon pricing informed by estimates of the social costs of carbon, including the health effects of air pollution.
- Promote research and development of technologies to remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere for deployment if necessary.
- Forge collaborations between health and climate sciences to create a power-ful alliance for sustainability.
- Promote behavioral changes that are beneficial for human health and protective of the environment, such as increased consumption of plant-based diets.
- Educate and empower the young to become the leaders of sustainable development.
- Promote an alliance with society that brings together scientists, policy makers, health care providers, faith/spiritual leaders, communities, and founda-tions to foster the societal transformation necessary to achieve our goals in the spirit of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’.
To implement these 12 solutions, we call on health professionals to engage, educate, and advocate for climate mitigation and to undertake preventive public health actions vis-à-vis air pollution and climate change; and to inform the public of the high health risks of air pollution and climate change.
Further reading from UNCCD Library:
- The Implications of desertification, land degradation, drought, sand and dust storms on human health (research 1994-2020)
- More resources on health and environmental problems; human health impacts; drought; zoonotic diseases; SDGs nexus; SDG15; environmental education; biodiversity; land investments