COP28: climate crisis is a health crisis, say scientific and health-focused organisations and experts

The climate crisis is a health crisis.

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Lung Foundation (ELF) have led a group of more than 60 medical, public health and scientific societies, patient representative organisations and experts in a call for decision makers at the 28th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP28) to prioritise action to mitigate but also adapt to the health effects of climate change, to prepare societies and communities for a ‘much more complex future’.

The organisations have called for comprehensive action in a joint statement initiated by ERS and ELF and published ahead of COP28.

The statement stresses that climate change is a global threat requiring immediate action, while also outlining to governments worldwide that it also presents a significant public health policy opportunity for those prepared to act.

Climate change has an ever-increasing impact on health. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • By 2050, climate change is expected to cause at least 250,000 deaths every year.
  • As well as direct impacts derived from extreme weather events, climate change carries indirect impact through changes in aeroallergen exposure patterns, air quality, wildfires, and transmissibility of vector- and water-borne diseases.
  • Due to worsening air quality and increasing temperatures, climate change exacerbates respiratory health conditions such as asthma and COPD.
  • Climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable and marginalised communities and exacerbates existing health disparities.

The statement also references the 2022 Lancet Countdown Report, which outlines that mitigation of and adaptation to climate change can also be the ‘biggest public health policy opportunity of the century’ – if health, wellbeing and equity are placed at the heart of climate change mitigation and adaptation plans.

Representing ERS at COP28 will be Professor Zorana Jovanovic Andersen, ERS Environment and Health Committee Chair. Prof. Andersen said:

“The climate crisis is a global health crisis; action to mitigate it and adapt to its impact must be immediate.

“Increases in frequency and severity of extreme weather events, induced by climate change, are already having devastating effects worldwide. Accelerating global warming, and poor air quality exacerbates a number of health conditions, including respiratory illnesses such as asthma or COPD; it also increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.

“However, the devastating change and impact which climate change continues to bring to our planet and to global public health also presents an opportunity. Governments, authorities and policymakers have a chance to develop public health policies and to motivate citizens, healthcare professionals, researchers and political entities.

“The opportunity is there to be taken, and the health community stands ready to support those who are willing to act on this global crisis.”

Any organisations or groups who would like to endorse this statement should contact the European Respiratory Society for their name and logo to be featured.

Read the full statement.

Learn more about ERS advocacy activities.