Climate change and health risks – new commission launched

By Siân Williams, Research postgraduate, Department of Physics and Grantham Institute for Climate Change

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Georgina Mace and other panelists at the UCL Institute of Global Health event on 16 January. Photo: S. Williams

In 2009 a joint report between University College London and The Lancet stated, “Climate change is the biggest risk to global health of the 21st century”. The work highlighted extreme weather events, changing patterns of disease and food and water insecurity.

Now a second UCL-Lancet commission is underway. Last month, UCL’s Institute of Global Health hosted a launch event for the report entitled ‘Climate crisis: emergency actions to protect human health’.

The event was chaired by UCL’s Anthony Costello, head of the first Lancet commission. Panellists involved in the new commission include scientists and economists from UCL, Tsinghua University in Beijing and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The new commission is structured with five working groups. Its aims range from drawing out the key implications of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on health through to assessing the financial and policy mechanisms available to governments to protect their citizens against the worst impacts of climate change.

The format of the event allowed a wide range of issues to be discussed. These included the impacts of climate on mental health and the disillusion felt by many towards the COP international climate negotiation process.

Isobel Braithwaite, from the student-led Healthy Planet organisation, commented that “The first UCL-Lancet commission really served to shift the discussion away from climate change being just about ice caps and polar bears to an issue that’s ultimately about people’s health, so it’s exciting to hear that a second commission’s now underway. It sounds like this second one will go into much more depth on the actions we need to take to avert the major health crisis posed by unmitigated climate change”.

At the most recent COP negotiations in Warsaw, Healthy Planet formed part of the protest movement against Poland’s plans for future coal plants. The topic of climate and health will continue to be in the spotlight during Health Planet’s national conference, which will take place over the first weekend of March. Tickets for the event are available here.

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