From April 9th – 17th, climate action group Extinction Rebellion (XR) staged a number of protests across London demanding an immediate end to all new fossil fuel investments. When we think of the type of person who may be a climate activist, a healthcare professional isn’t the first that comes to mind. However, doctors and nurses have been taking to the streets of London with XR and risking arrest as they peacefully disrupt the city. But, why?

The link between climate and health

The World Health Organisation has stated that ‘climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity’. Direct impacts are already coming from the physical and mental impacts of extreme weather events including flooding and heat waves. Nearly 1.5 billion people already face flood risk and it is expected that this will increase by almost 180 million by 2030. At 1.5oC, 14% of the world’s population will be exposed to extreme heat waves, but at 2oC this rises to 37%. Indirect impacts on health will also come from mass displacement of people, with at least 1.2 billion people predicted to be displaced by 2050. There are also issues like eco-anxiety. 

Extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent due to climate change are already responsible for 5 million deaths globally each year. Current policies have us on track for a 3.2oC temperature rise which is more than double the target of 1.5oC to avoid catastrophic climate change. We need to act now to drastically reduce our carbon emissions and keep global temperatures as low as possible to avoid devastating health impacts.

When we understand the impact of climate change on health, it is no surprise to see healthcare professionals join others on the XR frontlines.

Climate action and health co-benefits

Many of the actions we need to take to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise have a multitude of benefits for our health and wellbeing also. The positive benefits that a climate action has on other outcomes is called a ‘co-benefit’. Recognising co-benefits in policymaking is essential to tackling climate change faster. To read about our top five health co-benefits, click here.

The Net Zero Navigator

The Net Zero Navigator is a tool for local governments that links co-benefits to climate action. Highlighting co-benefits helps to build the business case for tackling climate change and drives cross-departmental collaboration. Together with the OnePlanet platform, local governments are able to track, manage and automatically report on their climate interventions. To find out more, click here.