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Medical journals around the world issue warning – Climate change is ‘greatest threat’ to human health

Over 200 of the world’s leading medical journals have published the same editorial sounding the alarm about climate change.

Climate 'mysteries' still puzzle scientists, despite progress
The effects of climate change are being felt ever more forcefully - Copyright AFP Robyn Beck
The effects of climate change are being felt ever more forcefully - Copyright AFP Robyn Beck

In an unprecedented move never seen before, over 200 of the world’s leading medical journals have published the same editorial sounding the alarm about climate change. 

The editorial is published in leading titles from every continent including The BMJThe Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, the Medical Journal of Australia, to name a few, and 50 BMJ specialist journals including BMJ Global Health and Thorax.

Dr. Eric Rubin, the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, called the editorial “unusual” but essential. Already, rising temperatures have been linked to higher rates of heart and lung problems as well as infectious diseases, and the editorial warns the problem will only get worse.

Rising temperatures and the increase in extreme weather events not only cause widespread degradation of the environment, but disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, ethnic minorities, poorer communities and those with underlying health conditions.

The editorial insists that the world can’t wait for the COVID-19 pandemic to pass before addressing climate change, reports NPR.org. “No temperature rise is ‘safe’,” the editorial says. “In the past 20 years, heat-related mortality among people over 65 years of age has increased by more than 50 percent.”

“The point of this is not to say the sky is falling,” Dr. Rubin says. “It’s to say: There are problems. They’re very severe and there are things we can do and we should be doing them right now. I’d like this to be more of a call to action than an obituary on our planet.”

The editorial is being published ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting next week, one of the last international meetings taking place before the (COP26) climate conference in Glasgow, UK in November, reports Science Daily.

Basically, the medical journals are calling on governments across the globe to “intervene to transform societies and economies,” for example, by supporting the redesign of transport systems, cities, production and distribution of food, markets for financial investments, and health systems.

This year, the world has witnessed devastating floods and mudslides, torrential rain events, uncontrollable wildfires and oppressive heat, and it is all related to a changing climate. And, as the Wall Street Journal writes, the world has been hearing the warnings for the last 20 years, and we need to do something now.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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