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Climate change, biodiversity loss “one indivisible crisis”, editors-in-chief of more than 200 health journals globally publish editorial

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New Delhi:  More than 200 health journals globally have come together to simultaneously publish an editorial calling on world leaders and health professionals to recognise that “climate change and biodiversity loss are one indivisible crisis”.

They must thus be tackled together to preserve health and avoid catastrophe, said the editors-in-chief of leading journals, including The Lancet, The British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the National Medical Journal of India.

Urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare this indivisible crisis as a global health emergency, the authors say that it is a “dangerous mistake” to respond to the climate crisis and the nature crisis as if they were separate challenges.

“The climate crisis and loss of biodiversity both damage human health, and they are interlinked. It makes no sense for climate and nature scientists and politicians to consider the health and nature crises in separate silos,” said Kamran Abbasi, Editor in Chief of The BMJ in a separate statement.

Rising temperatures, extreme weather events, air pollution, and the spread of infectious diseases are some of the major health threats exacerbated by climate change and thus, human health is damaged directly by both the climate crisis and the nature crisis, they said, stressing that the poorest and most vulnerable communities often bear the highest burden of this damage.

For example, the authors said, pollution threatens access to clean water, fundamental to human health, by damaging water quality and causing a rise in water-borne diseases.

They also cited the example of ocean acidification which has reduced the quality and quantity of seafood that billions of people rely on for food and their livelihoods.

On biodiversity loss, the authors write that it undermines good nutrition and constrains the discovery of new medicines derived from nature.

Further, they write that emergence of new diseases and pandemics have heightened, owing to land use changes that have forced a closer contact between thousands of species, thereby increasing the exchange of pathogens.

While the biodiversity conference (COP) of December 2022 agreed on the conservation and management of at least 30 percent of the world’s land, coastal areas, and oceans by 2030, the authors noted that the climate and nature scientists providing the evidence for COPs are largely separate.

Many of these commitments have not been met, they said in the editorial.

“This has allowed ecosystems to be pushed further to the brink, greatly increasing the risk of breakdowns in the functioning of nature,” the authors warn.

“Even if we could keep global warming below an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, we could still cause catastrophic harm to health by destroying nature,” they said.

This risk, combined with the severe impacts on health already occurring, means the WHO should declare the indivisible climate and nature crisis as a global health emergency, before or at the World Health Assembly in May 2024, they write.

“Health professionals are highly trusted by the public, and they have a central role to play in articulating this important message and advocating for politicians to recognise and take urgent action to address the global health emergency. Over 200 health journals are today sending an unequivocal message,” said Abbasi.

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