Climate solutions double as health interventions

PHaJI Author: Jonathan Patz, MD, MPH

The climate crisis threatens to exacerbate numerous climate-sensitive health risks, including heatwave mortality, malnutrition from reduced crop yields, water- and vector-borne infectious diseases, and respiratory illness from smog, ozone, allergenic pollen, and wildfires. Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stress the urgent need for action to mitigate climate change, underscoring the need for more scientific assessment of the benefits of climate action for health and wellbeing. Project Drawdown has analyzed more than 80 solutions to address climate change, building on existing technologies and practices, that could be scaled to collectively limit warming to between 1.5° and 2 °C above preindustrial levels. The solutions span nine major sectors and are aggregated into three groups: reducing the sources of emissions, maintaining and enhancing carbon sinks, and addressing social inequities. Here we present an overview of how climate solutions in these three areas can benefit human health through improved air quality, increased physical activity, healthier diets, reduced risk of infectious disease, and improved sexual and reproductive health, and universal education. We find that the health benefits of a low-carbon society are more substantial and more numerous than previously realized and should be central to policies addressing climate change. Much of the existing literature focuses on health effects in high-income countries, however, and more research is needed on health and equity implications of climate solutions, especially in the Global South. We conclude that adding the myriad health benefits across multiple climate change solutions can likely add impetus to move climate policies faster and further.

Mailloux NA, Henegan CP, Lsoto D, Patterson KP, West PC, Foley JA, Patz JA.Climate solutions double as health interventions (2021).  Int J Environ Res and Public Health. 18, 13339.