Climate change is the "single biggest health threat facing humanity," and governments must "act with urgency" to tackle the crisis, a World Health Organization (WHO) special report warns.
In advance of a United Nation's climate change summit in early November, groups representing 45 million nurses, doctors and health professionals worldwide signed an open letter urging action on the climate crisis, CNN reported.
Both the WHO report and the open letter outline major climate issues already affecting public health. They include: air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels that causes climate change; more intense heat waves, floods and storms; extreme weather worsening food insecurity and hunger; and rising sea levels wrecking homes and livelihoods.
"As health professionals and health workers, we recognize our ethical obligation to speak out about this rapidly growing crisis that could be far more catastrophic and enduring than the COVID-19 pandemic," the letter states. "Those people and nations who have benefited most from the activities that caused the climate crisis, especially fossil fuel extraction and use, have a great responsibility to do everything possible to help those who are now most at risk."
"Protecting health requires action well beyond the health sector, in energy, transport, nature, food systems, finance and more," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote in the report's foreword, CNN reported.
"The health arguments for rapid climate action have never been clearer," Tedros added. "I hope this report can guide policymakers and practitioners from across sectors and across the world to implement the transformative changes needed."
He said the report includes 10 recommendations that "provide concrete examples of interventions that, with support, can be scaled up rapidly to safeguard our health and our climate."
They included creating climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable health systems, sustainable food production and designing sustainable cities and transportation systems, CNN reported.
"Even as they have been battling to end the COVID-19 pandemic, health leaders everywhere have been sounding the alarm on climate change," Maria Neira, director of WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said in a new release. "It is time we listened."
Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for more on climate change.