Pick Up

887. Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss: A Global Health Emergency 

Related Research Program


887. Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss: A Global Health Emergency 

On October 25, the editors-in-chief of more than 200 journals, including prestigious medical publications such as the BMJ and The Lancet, jointly issued a statement calling on the United Nations, politicians, and health professionals to recognize the climate crisis and biodiversity loss as an intertwined global health emergency that requires immediate action to avert a potential catastrophe. 

Here is a summary of their key messages:

The international response to the climate crisis and the degradation of natural ecosystems has been compartmentalized, a dangerous oversight. Upcoming conferences, COP28 in Dubai and COP16 on biodiversity in Turkey in 2024, have been treated as separate issues. However, the scientific community providing evidence to both COPs underscores the need to address climate change and biodiversity loss as interrelated facets of a complex problem, rather than in isolation. This approach is essential to prevent adaptation failures and maximize collective benefits to society.

In developing the concept of planetary health, the health community has gained a better understanding of the intricate interactions between different elements of the natural world. Damage to one component can have cascading effects on others. For example, events such as droughts, wildfires, floods and global warming can threaten plant growth, cause soil erosion and even exacerbate global warming by disrupting carbon sequestration. In particular, climate change has emerged as the leading cause of natural environment loss, surpassing even deforestation and land use change.

Both climate and environmental crises threaten human health. The global crisis has profound implications for human well-being, due to shortages of land, shelter, food and water, and the disruption of socio-economic systems, resulting in migration and conflicts driven by increasing poverty. Even if global warming is kept below 1.5°C, there will still be significant health impacts from the destruction of nature. Vulnerable communities will bear the brunt of these adverse health effects, exacerbating environmental problems and social inequalities. Since these crises have common root causes, addressing them simultaneously promises mutual benefits.

Failure to meet the commitments outlined at the COP Conferences on Climate Change and Biodiversity could trigger a "tipping point" where ecosystems collapse, triggering irreversible changes that could disrupt the balance of nature and lead to catastrophic global health threats.

The paper therefore calls on the COPs on climate change and biodiversity to recognize the current situation as a global health emergency and to work to integrate national climate change and biodiversity policies.

Editorials: Time to treat the climate and nature crisis as one indivisible global health emergency
BMJ 2023; 383 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p2355 (Published 25 October 2023)
Cite this as: BMJ 2023;383:p2355


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)


Related Pages