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The environment and climate change 

The environment and climate change
Chapter:
The environment and climate change
Author(s):

Alistair Woodward

and Alex Macmillan

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199661756.003.0013
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date: 18 October 2019

Climate change belongs in a new category of global environmental health problems. It is not just that the impacts are widely distributed: climate change is a result of unbalanced global systems. The effects on health occur through direct mechanisms, such as increased heat waves; through pressures on natural systems (reduced crop yields and undernutrition); and, as a consequence of social disruption, including population displacement. Improving baseline health status is fundamental to coping with climate change, because the populations that are most seriously affected are those that already bear a heavy burden of disease. But an undifferentiated public health response is not sufficient. There are distinctive features of climate change that have to be taken into account. Mitigation, or primary prevention, will require rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse emissions if global heating is to be held to low-risk levels. How these cuts are made will have significant ramifications for health, and the onus will fall on health professionals to identify common solutions, responses to climate change that are health-enhancing rather than health-damaging. There are many candidates, but by and large they are not on the path of ‘business as usual’ development.

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