Event Summary

  

The program summary of the Civil Society Event, in pdf form, can be downloaded here.

Links to the recordings of the event talks, organized by session, can be found here. (Note: you will need to register to view each video.)

 

About the Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health

Health leaders convened in New York on September 22nd for an event focusing on the health implications – and opportunities – of ambitious action on climate change. Convened by the Global Climate and Health Alliance, US Public Health Institute, American College of Sports Medicine and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the event brought together health leaders including Richard Horton of medical journal The Lancet, acting US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, EPA Chief Gina McCarthy, Maria Neira of the World Health Organisation and many others.

The focus of the event was primarily on solutions to climate change, but discussion of its’ health impacts highlighted the urgency of the subject. These are anticipated to become increasingly severe, particularly under business-as-usual high emissions scenarios and later this century. Equally importantly, many lives are lost directly as a result of fossil fuel combustion, particularly from air pollution, which causes approximately 7 billion premature deaths every year, and a significant strain on healthcare systems. “Climate change is, at its’ heart, the most significant public health challenge of our time,” said US EPA Chief Gina McCarthy. "Overwhelming numbers of lives are lost as a result of climate inaction.”

Professor Jonathan Patz presented the findings of a scientific review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association today, of the past 20 years’ evidence on the health challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. One of the examples given is the fact that, due to climate change, three times as many extremely hot days (over 90F) as today are anticipated by 2050, with important implications for many illnesses, as well as heat-related fatalities.

The event’s 3 panels centred on the significant public health benefits – and associated financial savings – that can result from policies which also benefit the climate, such as clean energy, better walking and cycling policy and more sustainable diets. Speaking of how public health can no longer be considered without also addressing climate change, acting US Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said, "What is good for our environment actually intertwines with what is good for our health".

Several new campaigns were launched during the day, including the American College of Sports Medicine’s ActivEarth initiative, and the US Climate and Health Alliance, which consists of a number of organizations across the United States. Jeff Thompson, CEO of Gundersen Health System, also announced: “our board and finance committee have looked at this and are willing to freeze all future investments in fossil fuels.” This move is in addition to committing to using only renewable energy for its operations.

Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm, said, "Gundersen’s announcement to freeze current fossil fuel investments will create the validation and political space for other health care systems to follow suit, both by investing in clean and renewable energy as well as divesting from fossil fuels. The announcement comes only months after members of the British Medical Association voted in favour of ending its investments in fossil fuels and increased investment in clean energy in June, and HESTA (the Health Employees’ Superannuation Trust Australia)’ announcement of a restriction on investments in thermal coal.

 

 

Useful Links:

For further information about the event, including the agenda and full list of speakers, please see http://climatehealth-sideevent.org

GCHA Storify from the event (for photos and tweets during the event): https://storify.com/GCHAlliance/nyc-climate-week-side-event-on-climate-and-health

ActivEarth Initiative: http://activearth.org/

US Climate and Health Alliance: http://usclimateandhealthalliance.org/

 

References:

Patz JA, Frumkin H, Holloway T, Vimont DJ, Haines A. Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Global Health. JAMA. Published online September 22, 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.13186. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1909928 

‘BMA annual meeting: Representatives vote to spread the word about the benefits of shunning fossil fuels’ BMJ 2014; 348 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4307 (27 June 2014) http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g4307

HESTA Media Release: HESTA announces new restriction on thermal coal investments http://www.hesta.com.au/media/docs/Media-Release-HESTA-announces-new-restriction-on-thermal-coal-investments-12914-9c17b9ee-94f3-4f96-9d45-e0d43fee14fd-0.pdf

 

For further information, please contact Nick Watts, Convenor, Global Climate and Health Alliance: Nick.Watts@climateandhealthalliance.org, +61421528949