Please increase not reduce the energy with which you counter the major threat to health from climate change
Dear Prime Minister,
I’m sure that you know the famous quote of Benjamin Disraeli, one of your predecessors, that: “The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.”
But you are perhaps less aware that the World Health Organisation has called climate change the major threat to global health. The harm is already here through storms, floods, fires, heatwaves, air pollution, extension of infectious disease, and forced migration and is set to become exponentially worse if we do not cut global emissions of greenhouse gases. Already supplies of food and water have been harmed in many countries, and without urgent action those shortages will be experienced in Britain.
You will be aware, I hope, that it is the poorest globally and within Britain who are the most harmed by climate change.
I write to you as the chair of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, which brings together 44 organisations of health professionals, including most of the royal colleges (physicians, GPs, nurses, surgeons, pharmacists, vets, and many others), to work on mitigating the harm to health from the climate and nature crisis. Altogether our members’ members number over a million, most of the NHS workforce.
It has been reported that you are planning to dilute several environmental policies, and we urge you to reconsider. Far from diluting policies we need to increase action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid further destruction of nature. If we fail to do so, then the effects on health will rapidly grow from bad to severe to catastrophic.
I urge you to recognise the wisdom of your predecessor, Disraeli, and act with greater urgency to counter the major threat to global health.
Dr Richard Smith CBE, FMedSci, FRCPE, FRCSE, FRCPSG, FRCGP, FFPHM
Chair, UK Health alliance on Climate Change