The medical case against climate change

Deniers stating that climate change is a threat for the distant future forget that air pollution from coal fired plants, industry and vehicle exhausts are just a huge threat to our present as well. 

A new study published in The Lancet – one of the world’s oldest and best known general medical journals – is a plea for action on climate change and air pollution. These two issues are rather two faces of the same coin, one being global, the other being local.

Here is an interesting extract from News Discovery :

Climate change is a medical emergency so great that it could reverse much of the progress toward global health made in the last 50 years, the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change reported today.

 Increasing numbers of extreme weather events, such as heat waves, floods, droughts and storms, plus subtle changes such in rises in temperature, have been blamed for everything from asthma to more severe seasonal allergies to changes in infectious disease patterns.

”Climate change is a medical emergency,” Commission co-Chair Professor Hugh Montgomery, director of the University College London’s Institute for Human Health and Performance, said in a press release. “It thus demands an emergency response, using the technologies available right now.”

You read that right : left unadressed, climate change would wipe out the last 50 years of medical progress. Let this sink in. Think about how Medicine increased life expectancy so much in the past decades…

I Googled a bit and to the World Health Organization :

Average life expectancy at birth in 1955 was just 48 years; in 1995 it was 65 years; in 2025 it will reach 73 years. “

Imagine getting back to a life expectancy of less than half a century ! As a reminder of how serious this is I blogged recently that air pollution killed 7 million people in 2012, more than Malaria or AIDS.


Phasing out coal is explicitely mentioned in the study. This is a big issue as the dirtiest fossil fuel and the environmental enemy number one is behind 40 percent of global electricity generation to date. Countries such as China, South Africa, Australia or Poland have over 75 to 80 percent of their electricity coming from it…

If most people do not care that much about climate change as they regard as a long term issue that will impact faraway populations, this report stresses the fact that it is wrong as air pollution causes asthma, lung cancers and many others to local populations.


Even worse, as Mother Jones reports, air pollution may be responsible for the recent spike of neurodegenerative diseases  such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s :

Still, evidence from retrospective studies is sobering. Controlling for things like ethnicity, gender, income, education, and other possible environmental exposures (including cigarette smoke), elderly individuals living in areas with polluted air appear to lose their mental abilities faster, show more predementia symptoms (also known as mild cognitive impairment), and develop Alzheimer’s die at greater rates.


Going 100 percent renewables as soon as possible just gained another major reason. After the moral imperative that Pope Francis reminded us, respected medical doctors are calling for action because of medical imperative. Let us hope this will spur for more action.

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