Another addition to the Fifty Shades series?

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is about something much hotter — and calls for, ahem, group action!

Cut to the chase.

A globally distinguished expert panel says climate change will pull back global health by at least 50 years. Which means, the effects of global warming and the countless problems they trigger can undo all the progress in health that we have made over the past five decades.

Says who?

The Lancet-University College London commission on health and climate change. The entity is a collaboration of experts who are supported by the WHO. Its report comes at a time when the world is getting ready for the UN climate summit in Paris in December, when nations hope to agree on cutting emissions.

Sounds serious.

You bet! The study and its finding become important because so far we haven’t looked at climate change through the prism of public health. The experts say the global community, which has been discussing a myriad impacts of human-induced climate change, should also see the phenomenon as an important health issue. According to the report, a public health perspective has the potential to unite all actors behind a common cause.

Why is this important?

Well, as things stand now, we are on our way to a world warmer by 4°C. The Lancet-UCL panel says we’d better not go there because this journey could undermine all of the last half-century’s gains. And hence climate change should be treated as a medical emergency. Mind you, such terms matter a lot in the ongoing debate over mitigating climate change effects and sharing responsibilities.

I’m suitably scared...

The detailed analysis has found that climate change poses health risks to human health directly (floods, droughts) and indirectly (air pollution, epidemics, famines, psychological problems). It’s in this context that the panel recommends a rapid phase-out of coal as an energy resource. This action will help us check the millions of premature deaths from air pollution, they say.

Are there any numbers?

You may not want to look at them. The report, for instance, says the effects of heat waves are rising. In Russia alone, they claimed 11,000 lives in 2010. The scientists say dengue fever will spread globally; malaria cases may shoot up in some areas. Cholera will spread in areas where hurricanes mix waste and drinking water and, across the globe, extreme weather conditions are on the rise.

Yes, there were reports...

There’re more. Food shortages may haunt us more as crops and livestock get affected, the report states. As a result, we will see the number of refugees rise alarmingly, leading to further health problems, or even to conflicts.

So, what should we do now?

The scientists say whatever we should do to pause the tragedy should be done in the next 10 years. And that might — that’s a big ‘might’ by the way — help us get back to the nearly inevitable, much predicted 2°C “trajectory”.

The report has forecast that cutting carbon emissions will reduce premature deaths from air pollution by 500,000 a year in 2030, 1.3 million in 2050 and 2.2 million in 2100, particularly in India and China. In the US, the improvements to human health can equal 10 times the costs of reducing toxic gas emissions.

A tall order, I’d say.

Thereport urges doctors and other health professionals to don leading roles in ending humanity’s obsession with fossil fuels. They can make it happen because they have previously fought and taken down “powerful” interests such as the tobacco lobby.

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