Leading health journals publish joint editorial on ‘climate crisis’

08 September 2021

2 minute read


Disclosures: Godlee reports that he sits on the executive committee of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and is a trustee of the Eden Project. Please see the editorial for relevant financial information from all other authors.


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In an unprecedented collaborative move, 220 leading health journals published a joint editorial on climate change, calling on world leaders to act quickly to protect the planet and safeguard public health.

Never have so many journals published the same editorial, according to a press release.


More than 200 health journals have published a joint editorial calling for urgent action to tackle the ‘climate crisis’. Source: Adobe Stock.

“The risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of a single disease. The COVID-19 pandemic will end, but there is no vaccine for the climate crisis», Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, director-general of the WHO, said in the statement. “The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report shows that every fraction of a degree more endangers our health and our future. Likewise, every step taken to limit emissions and global warming brings us closer to a healthier and safer future.

The editorial was published ahead of the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting this month in New York, the UN Biodiversity Summit in October in Kunming, China, and the UN Conference of the Parties. on climate change in November in Glasgow, Scotland.

Journals involved in the joint editorial include Allergy, The BMJ, The New England Journal of Medicine, SLEEP, Advances in Nutrition and The Lancet.

“The threat of climate change is urgent and comes at an unprecedented time for planetary and human health,” The Lancet said in a statement to Healio Primary Care. “Collaborating with other leading journals on this editorial ensures that our concerns and calls for change are powerfully conveyed to world leaders ahead of UNGA and COP26.”

The editorial’s authors wrote that “health is already being challenged by rising global temperatures and the destruction of the natural world.”

“The science is unequivocal; a global rise of 1.5°C above the pre-industrial average and continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic health damage that will be impossible to reverse,” Lukoye Atwoli, PhD, editor of the East African Medical Journal, and his colleagues wrote.

The authors acknowledged the current global challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but said “we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions.”

“Reflecting the gravity of the moment, this comment is appearing in health journals around the world. We are united in recognizing that only fundamental and equitable changes in societies will reverse our current trajectory,” they wrote.

The authors stressed that medical professionals “must hold world leaders to account and continue to educate others about the health risks of the crisis.” Their aim is to achieve “ecologically sustainable health systems” by 2040. However, targets and promises are “not enough”, according to the authors. Fundamental changes in the organization of society are necessary to meet the challenges ahead.

“Healthcare professionals have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. And they are united in warning that going above 1.5C and allowing the continued destruction of nature will lead to the next, far deadlier crisis,” Fiona Godleedoctor, editor of the BMJ, said in the statement. “Wealthier nations must act faster and do more to support countries already suffering from higher temperatures. 2021 must be the year the world turns around – our health depends on it.”

Several other journal publishers and world leaders commented on the editorial, including Eric J. Rubin, MD, PhD, editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

“The environment and health are intimately linked. Climate change puts us at risk in many ways, including its critical impacts on health and health care delivery,” Rubin said in the statement. “As medical and public health practitioners, we have an obligation not only to anticipate new health care needs, but also to be active players in limiting the causes of the climate crisis.”

The references:

Atwoli L, et al. Lancet. 2021;doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(21)01915-2.