groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)

Health commission labels climate change a “health emergency”.

Durban, South Africa, 23 June 2015 – The threat to human health from climate change is so great that it could undermine the last fifty years of gains in development and global health, said leading medical journal The Lancet in its 2015 Commission on Health and Climate report. South Africans are at serious risk from the health impacts of heatwaves, extreme weather, droughts, increasing spread of climate sensitive diseases, and associated mental ill health.
This report updates and builds on the ground breaking UCL-Lancet Commission published in 2009 when climate change was first described as the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.

This research provides clear evidence that health is being harmed by current levels of global warming and climate change and that human survival depends on acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report notes that on “current emissions trajectories, temperature rises in the next 85 years are incompatible with an organised global community”.
Rico Euripidou, epidemiologist and Environmental Health Campaigner at groundWork:

“By limiting greenhouse gas emissions or adapting communities to be more resilient, climate action can also result in unprecedented, concrete and rapid improvements to public health. Reducing carbon emissions will help avoid catastrophic climate change, and will also save a significant amount of money from being spent on healthcare costs.”

Much effort is needed to protect the health of South Africans from climate change. At present there is little recognition from the national government and national Department of Health regarding the health impacts of climate change. Currently, there are no plans to take the actions outlined in this report as vital to protect the health of the community from climate impacts.

According to one study, the health benefits of air quality improvements could offset the costs of the carbon-cutting policies by up to ten times. Therefore, it is remiss of the South African government to not consider and implement climate policies into health and energy policies, given the billions of Rands that could be saved for the country’s health budget.

Megan Lewis
groundWork: Media, Information and Publications Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Rico Euripidou
groundWork: Environmental Health Campaigner
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Mobile: +27 (0) 83 519 3008