World leaders must “act now” to prevent a rise in global temperatures which could be “catastrophic” for human health, and undermine all of the medical advances made in the last half century, experts have warned.
In a stark report on climate change, experts said that the world is headed for a 4C rise in global temperatures, which would spark a rise in extreme weather events and infectious diseases such as malaria.
The document advised politicians to invest in avoiding anything above a 2C rise in worldwide temperatures, by cutting emissions from energy, transport and agriculture.
Such a move would come hand-in-hand with health benefits including improved diets and fewer deaths and diseases caused by air pollution.
Phasing out coal-fired power plants and upgrading cities to promote healthy, eco-friendly lifestyles to cut obesity were among the recommendations made by experts in The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change.
On top of this, politicians should work to encourage people to change their behaviour by pushing up the prices of high carbon goods, while reducing the cost of low-carbon technology.
This would likely spell the end of cheap short-haul flights which have become increasingly popular.
“That sort of thing could become quite a bit more expensive, such that people would think twice about doing that,” said Professor Paul Ekins, director of the Institute for Sustainable Resources, University College London (UCL).
However, people would save money from cuts to taxes and if they "really valued those stag nights in Barcelona, they can still do it but they'd have to give up more in order to have it", he suggested.
The health sector also has a role to play, by finding ways to care for patients without having to drive to hospitals or by offering asthma suffers inhalers which do not emit greenhouse gases, the commission said.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
Commission co-chairman Professor Anthony Costello, director of UCL's Institute for Global Health, said a 4C rise would have “very serious and potentially catastrophic effects for human health and human survival."
"It could undermine all the last half century gains."
Urging politicians to act, he continued that “action in the next 10 years [is needed] otherwise the game could be over.“
But such changes could transform health.
"All of the things we want to do to protect ourselves against climate change will improve our health, whether it's active transport, walking, cycling, eating healthier, sustainable, local diets or cutting air pollution."
Hitting back a climate change sceptics, Prof Ekins said the climate sceptic argument that tackling climate change is too expensive is “simply wrong” as an estimated one trillion US dollars (£630 billion) would be needed each year up to 2050 to tackle climate emissions from energy. A further 105 trillion US dollars (£66 trillion) which would be required anyway for the energy system up to mid]century.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content