Climate change is the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century. It is already affecting populations across the globe, and its impact will be catastrophic if left unabated.
The effects of climate change include an increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, extreme storms and heatwaves, which have physical and mental health impacts; the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue to new locations; worsening nutrition resulting from decreased agricultural productivity and higher global food prices; rising sea levels and associated population displacement; and an exacerbation of poverty and inequalities.
Reducing and mitigating the impact of climate change requires sustained and collaborative action globally, nationally and locally. A joined up approach to tackling the threat of climate change, alongside other threats such as air pollution, is particularly important. For example, the wide use of measures such as clean air zones, or action to phase out coal-use, will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve local air quality.
What you can do to help reduce climate change
Doctors and other health professionals have a vital role in supporting and advocating for better approaches to tackling climate change that protect and promote public health, while also reducing the burden on health services.
You can find out more information about climate change and ways you can take action in our full guidance.
What is the BMA doing on climate change?
The BMA is a founding member of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which has brought together Britain’s major health institutions with the aim of:
- raising awareness of the health risks of climate change and the benefits that tackling it can bring
- supporting and enabling doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to act
- advocating at a national and international level for a strong policy response to protect and promote public health in tackling climate change.
Working with the Alliance we lobby the UK Governments to ensure that national energy, health, transport, agriculture and local community policy unlocks health benefits. Its current work has a particular focus on measures that improve air quality and help reduce and mitigate the impact of climate change.
We also recognise our responsibility to promote and adopt appropriate organisational policies, and have a Corporate Sustainability and Health Group to support this.