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Climate change is ‘biggest health threat facing humanity,’ WHO says

Click to play video: 'Calls for urgent action ahead of COP26 summit aimed at setting new climate goals' Calls for urgent action ahead of COP26 summit aimed at setting new climate goals
WATCH: World leaders are set to meet at Glasgow later this month for the COP26 conference, as the climate summit aims to urgently set new goals to combat global warming and climate change. But as Jackson Proskow reports, time is running short as many nation have yet to meet goals already established by the 2015 Paris Agreement – Oct 17, 2021

The World Health Organization and about three-quarters of global health care workers on Monday called on governments to step up climate action at the COP26 global climate conference, saying it could save millions of lives a year.

The UN health agency’s report on climate change and health calls for transformational action in every sector including energy, transport and finance, saying the public health benefits of ambitious climate actions far outweigh the costs.

“The burning of fossil fuels is killing us. Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” the WHO said on Monday.

Read more: Climate change spiraling out of control, U.N. report says

The WHO has previously said some 13.7 million deaths a year, or around 24.3% of the global total, were due to environmental risks such as air pollution and chemical exposure.

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It is not clear exactly how many of those are directly linked to climate change, although the WHO’s Maria Neira said about 80% of the deaths from air pollution could be prevented through compliance with its guidelines.

Climate change is also stoking some infectious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, causing deaths in some of the world’s poorest regions, said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, head of a WHO climate change unit.

“Our health is not negotiable: we are going into climate negotiations, we are negotiating many things but the life of a single child whether it is lost to air pollution or climate change is not something that should be on the table,” he said.

Read more: Key takeaways from the U.N. climate change report

The report’s release coincides with a letter backed by more than 400 health bodies representing more than 45 million nurses, doctors and medical professionals also calling for action.

“Pediatricians are speaking up because we do prevention, we give immunisations to prevent communicable diseases and we are speaking up now because we know that the health of the people and the health of the climate are one,” said Ruth Etzel with the International Pediatric Association.

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council recognized access to a clean and healthy environment as a fundamental right, adding its weight to the fight against climate change.
Click to play video: 'Ahead of COP26, thousands march for climate action in Brussels' Ahead of COP26, thousands march for climate action in Brussels
Ahead of COP26, thousands march for climate action in Brussels – Oct 10, 2021

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