Medical journals make unprecedented plea for climate action

In an unprecedented coordinated action, more than 200 medical journals published a joint editorial calling climate change our most pressing health challenge and urging UN members to take meaningful action at the General Assembly.

“The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C and to restore nature,” says the editorial. Rising temperatures “and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse.”

It’s also a threat to food supply: “Global heating is also contributing to the decline in global yield potential for major crops.”

“Equity must be at the center of the global response,” because climate change is driven by the richest countries, but disproportionately affects poorer countries and vulnerable populations.

The kind of robust worldwide reaction to COVID-19 is needed on climate. “Targets are easy to set and hard to achieve,” they warn. “They are yet to be matched with credible short-term and longer-term plans to accelerate cleaner technologies and transform societies.”

“Reflecting the severity of the moment, this editorial appears in health journals across the world,” explained the participants, including major journals like the Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine. While journals sometimes publish jointly, there has never been such wide-scale simultaneous publication.

The editorial comes ahead of the UN General Assembly, which begins tomorrow and includes a discussion of a resolution on climate.

So, what’s the solution? “We have to science our way out” of climate change, BIO’s Dr. Michelle has said—read what she wrote in STAT News about why we must advance biotechnology to respond to climate change.

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