Dealing with the effects of climate change with new green policies such as reducing meat consumption and getting people to walk more could prevent tens of thousands of deaths and save the NHS £17 billion over 20 years.
A new report from the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society gives the UK some of the health benefits of becoming greener that will help save the planet and improve life and overall health.
He says his report should inspire the government to pursue ambitious climate goals at the upcoming Cop26 gathering of global leaders in Glasgow later this month.
In their major findings, experts say that replacing half of UK meat and dairy food consumption with fruits, vegetables and grains would mean avoiding 37,000 deaths annually from heart disease, stroke and diet-related cancers.
The NHS could save £17 billion over 20 years if city dwellers in England and Wales walk an average of 1 km more and cycle an average of 3 km further each day. He said inaction would dramatically reduce the number of patients suffering from heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
This would ease the pressure on the health care system, saving it an estimated £17bn, as well as reduce pollution levels as more people choose to walk rather than drive.
The report also cites the example of reducing deaths from air pollution, which currently causes 36,000 premature deaths annually, as a health problem that would benefit from reduced burning of fossil fuels.
Better insulating homes would also prevent deaths from low temperatures—up to 50,000 annually, the authors said.
Professor Joanna High said in a press briefing on Wednesday that she hopes her co-chaired report will provide “significant impetus for government action on climate change”.
Prof High said: “Cop 26’s presidency provides a huge opportunity for the UK not only to encourage action on climate change but to deliver measurable improvements in public health.
“The health benefits outlined in our report should provide significant impetus for government action on climate change, and such incentives also have the potential to increase public support for policies and increase public action on climate change.
“Another incentive is provided by the cost savings resulting from improving the health of the population.
“These can go to great lengths to offset the cost of mitigation.”
Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, director of the Center for Climate Change and Social Transformation at the University of Bath, said there is also a need for “social change”.
She said at the press conference: “We need significant behavioral change, we need social change, and that is one of the themes of our report.
“With a recognition that we need to bring people along, it’s going to involve significant behavior change.
“While some of it is known, I don’t think it is filtering through some of the highest levels of policy-making.
“It’s one of those things that would be great to see highlighted in Cop26.”
Professor Sir Andy Haines, who co-chaired the report, said tackling climate change has the potential to reduce health inequalities.
He said: “Our report provides several ‘win-win’ examples of actions that will have a positive impact on health and climate.
“Many measures, such as better public transport access and energy efficient housing, can also help reduce health inequalities.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /