Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials Christmas 2020: House of God

Climate action: the best gift for global health

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 15 December 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4723
  1. Renee N Salas, emergency medicine physician1 2
  1. 1Harvard Global Health Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA
  2. 2Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  1. rnsalas{at}

The health community mobilised against covid-19 and can mobilise again

December is a time for reflection, and there is much for us to process from 2020. The covid-19 pandemic proved to be an unprecedented global stress test for health systems—both revealing and exacerbating problematic areas. Disinformation and misinformation, mixed with a festering distrust of science, politicised age-old commonsense public health interventions.12 When prevention failed, even the best functioning healthcare systems broke under the surge of covid-19 patients. While the rollout of vaccines will lessen the pandemic burden, climate change still threatens to disrupt our health systems further and erode decades of health gains.

This month is the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement, and we are at the critical juncture of countries disclosing their efforts to meet national commitments to reduce emissions.3 Thus far, the political will to implement policies that will avoid the most catastrophic health outcomes have failed to materialise; current policies place today’s world, already 1.2°C warmer than in pre-industrial times, at up to 4°C warmer by 2100.45

The fragility of …

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