If you think that global warming is under control, you might have been more than a little shocked by a recent report suggesting the contrary. The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change issued a stark warning, stating that we are currently ill equipped to deal with the issues that will face us as a result of changing environmental conditions.
We are already seeing greater incidences of floods in the UK but there are environmental changes taking place all across the globe that could have massive consequences. The future could see the increase of floods, droughts across the globe and freak events such as violent storms that will all have a serious effect on the delivery of good public health.
According to the organisation’s website, this will put massive pressure on places like the NHS if we don’t make changes:
“If we fail to act quickly, it will exacerbate existing national health challenges, place undue financial strain on the NHS, and worsen health inequalities both within the UK and internationally.”
Unless we start to deal with climate change more seriously, we may see the spread of diseases such as malaria and dengue as temperatures rise in more northern countries. It could also cause disruption to agriculture in many parts of the world leading to armed conflicts and the mass migration of peoples that would cause further pressure on already stretched organisations such as the NHS.
It’s an apocalyptic view of our future and one which has gained a lot of press coverage since the New Year. The report also states that by responding to the key drivers of climate change we can tackle some of the major health issues we are already facing today, including the damage being done in our big cities due to air pollution. Governments need to combine a strategy of climate change, air pollution reduction and renewable energy with the strengthening of health services if places like the UK are to have a chance of coping in the future.
For some, it has become all the more worrying when the UK Government recently abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). While the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is now to take over this mantle, many green supporters have already said that the UK’s climate change agenda is being taken off the table. One of the first out of the blocks was Green MP Caroline Lucas who said:
“Climate change is the biggest challenge we face, and it must not be an afterthought for the Government. Dealing with climate change requires a dedicated Minister at the Cabinet table. To throw it into the basement of another Whitehall department looks like a serious backwards step.”
The relationship between the NHS and health care provision in the UK and the climate change agenda is particularly worrying for those who doubt the Conservative Government’s commitment. When they were in opposition prior to 2010 much was made of David Cameron’s promise to make the Tories the greenest party in the country. That developed quite well under the later coalition, some say mainly because of the influence of the liberal democrats. But by 2013, it was clear that things were not going as well as many clean energy enthusiasts hoped with Cameron making comments about ‘getting rid of all this green crap’.
Over the last year, however, following the Conservative majority at the last election, subsidies have been cut and focus has been turned to nuclear energy and the development of fracking. Combine this with the mistrust most voters have with Tory plans for the NHS and the problems our health services are facing and the future looks a little bleak.
According to the UK Health Alliance:
“There is clear and widely accepted evidence that inaction will lead to unacceptable risks. The science is clear; the legal and implementation frameworks are becoming aligned; a national cross-system strategy for the health and social care sectors exists; and the multiple benefits for health if we take action now are profound.”