Leaders see hope in jointly combating deadly climate change and public health problems

By | September 18, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — In trying to lessen the devastating impact of climate change, experts hope that attempts to improve the global public health system and sometimes-stalled efforts to contain global warming through collaboration they can combine – and create a better system for dealing with the problem along the way.

Leaders of the World Health Organization and the upcoming climate talks said Monday that, for the first time, they will dedicate a day during the December climate talks to public health issues. By focusing on how climate change is causing death and disease, they hope, nations can take greater action on the root cause: carbon pollution.

“Climate change is killing us and climate change is a health crisis,” said Vanessa Kerry, the World Health Organization’s special envoy for health and climate change, CEO of Seed Global Health and daughter of the US climate envoy. USA, John Kerry. “We should not measure our failures in degrees Celsius, but in lives lost.”

With the start of Climate Week in New York, before a special UN summit on climate ambition on Wednesday, leaders called health a key part of the fight against climate change, saying it was crucial to improve and increase health spending.

Meanwhile, police said more than 100 protesters were arrested while blocking the New York Federal Reserve. They targeted Wall Street for financing coal, oil and gas that cause global warming and blamed President Joe Biden, whose administration spread across the city to underline how seriously the United States takes the problem.

“The health threats from our changing climate are here and now. The climate crisis is a health crisis,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. Reducing carbon and other air pollution “will save lives,” he said. “The health of our future generations is at stake.”


A UN report earlier this month showed that the world is out of the way in its efforts to fulfill the 2015 Paris agreement and limit future warming, said Adnan Amin, the CEO of the upcoming climate talks, called COP28. Therefore, the upcoming talks in Dubai are “one of the last chances to correct course,” he said. And a day dedicated to public health “is where you can really get momentum for change.”

“Lives and livelihoods are at risk around the world,” said Sultan Al Jaber, President of COP28. He said 7 million people die a year around the world from air pollution, which is not technically the same as the carbon dioxide and methane that cause warming but often comes from similar sources.

The small African nation of Malawi discovered just how deadly global warming is from a health perspective earlier this year when Cyclone Freddy it killed hundreds of people and massive malaria outbreaks followed, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said.

He said many of Africa’s public health problems are linked to climate change. He and others cited recent flooding in Libya and said they expected public health problems in the future.

“At the heart of the fight against climate change is the need for adequate resources,” Chakwera said at Monday’s session on climate and health.

Just 0.5% of global financial aid goes to public health and climate change, Al Jaber said. “This,” he said, “is in no way acceptable or sufficient.”

Perhaps talking about lives that can be saved by spending more money on adapting to a hotter world – but also reducing carbon emissions – is a positive message that could change the way negotiators and leaders think about combating climate change, he said. Maria Neira, the Director of Climate Change, Environment and Health at WHO.


Hundreds of climate protesters had the global financial system in mind when they marched to Wall Street and blocked access to the New York Federal Reserve.

“It’s important to send a message to world leaders, to Joe Biden, to the financial sector here on Wall Street that the climate crisis is upon us and (demonstrate) the level of urgency with which we need them to respond,” said Jonathan Westin, a Climate Organizing Hub activist.

Protesters have targeted the fossil fuel industry and criticized the United States’ status as the world’s No. 1 nation in planning more future oil and gas drilling.

“The only institution that can truly regulate Wall Street and stop banks from financing new oil, gas and coal infrastructure is the Fed,” said Alicé Nascimento, campaigns director at Communities for Change New York.

“They have that power. So we want to make sure they know they need to use that power.”


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