Major health journals have united to urge the WHO to declare a global health emergency. 

Over 200 leading scientific journals have joined forces to call for the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the intertwined climate change and biodiversity loss crisis as a global health emergency. 

A united editorial, featured in prominent publications such as The BMJ, The Lancet, JAMA, and more, says there is a critical need to address both crises as a single, interlinked challenge. 

The authors argue that failure to do so is a “dangerous mistake” and stress the severe health risks posed, particularly to vulnerable communities.

Both the climate crisis and the nature crisis directly harm human health, with the most disadvantaged communities often bearing the brunt. 

Climate change exacerbates health threats through rising temperatures, extreme weather events, air pollution, and the spread of infectious diseases. 

Access to clean water, vital for health, is compromised by pollution and ocean acidification, which affects seafood quality and availability.

Biodiversity loss hampers nutrition and the discovery of natural-based medicines, while changes in land use bring species into closer contact, increasing the transmission of pathogens and the emergence of diseases. 

Access to green spaces that mitigate air pollution, reduce temperatures, and promote physical activity also contributes to community health and well-being.

The editorial says that despite commitments made at biodiversity conferences, the climate and nature scientists supporting these initiatives have operated separately, and many goals remain unmet. 

This has pushed ecosystems closer to collapse, heightening the health risks. 

Even if global warming is limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the harm to health due to natural destruction is significant.

The authors call for WHO to declare the climate and nature crisis as a global health emergency before or during the World Health Assembly in May 2024. 

They stress the need for harmonising COP processes and integrating national climate plans with biodiversity efforts. 

They say health professionals should advocate for biodiversity restoration and climate action, and political leaders must recognise the grave health threats and benefits tied to addressing the global health emergency.

The article is accessible here.

The journal editors have supported a petition calling for WHO to declare a global public health emergency at the World Health Assembly in May 2024.