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Tackling climate change improves health and saves money

By Ilan Kelman, on 23 June 2015

A recreational pathway in a Toronto, Canada ravine encourages exercise and reduces flood risk, so saves money. Photo: Ilan Kelman

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One key message from the Lancet Commission is the fundamental health tenet that ‘prevention is better than cure’. Solving climate change now is far cheaper than the future responses which are likely to be required. The required actions also have many other benefits.

To reduce fossil fuel use, changes to healthier lifestyles are encouraged. That includes more frequent walking and cycling as well as shifting to diets which are less meat-intensive and more locally sourced.

People gain individually by being healthier. The health service gains by having fewer patients with preventable chronic ailments, reducing costs and workloads. Everyone gains through tackling climate change’s basic sources.

Meanwhile, investing in energy efficiency and reducing energy demand in hospitals, care homes, and other health facilities saves money continually, over the long-term. In times of shrinking health budgets, saving money is important, with the added advantage of addressing climate change.

This lesson of ‘prevention is cheaper than cure’ has been quantified. A colleague and I completed a study which detailed cost-benefit analyses for efforts to reduce disaster impacts. These actions encompassed dealing with climate change, linking directly to human and environmental health benefits

The Lancet Commission shows how tackling climate change is win-win-win-win. It wins for the environment, it wins for reducing disaster risk, it wins for health, and so ultimately it wins for people and society. All the time, while saving money.

Ilan Kelman is Reader in Risk, Resilience and Global Health at University College London.

Image: A recreational pathway in a Toronto, Canada ravine encourages exercise and reduces flood risk, so saves money. Photo: Ilan Kelman