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Mitigation vs Adaptation – Which path to follow under uncertainty?

PaulDrummond23 June 2015

Thames Barrier (c) M Knight, UCL

Thames Barrier (c) M Knight, UCL

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Climate change poses a substantial risk to human societies. Indeed, as concluded by the first Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health and reaffirmed by the second Commission report released this week, ‘climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century’. In economic terms, if we continue on our current path, the influential 2007 Stern Review concluded that we might experience costs equivalent to reducing annual global GDP by 5-20% ‘now, and forever’. As such, it is clear that action to prevent such impacts must be taken.

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The Immediate Health Benefits Make Decarbonisation a “No Regret” Strategy

Melissa CLott23 June 2015

Credit: Photo of smog in Beijing in January 2013 by 大杨 and used under CC2.0

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Moving to clean energy technologies could benefit public health today and save us billions of pounds.

According to the Lancet Commission’s latest report, cutting global carbon emissions will lessen the future negative health impacts from climate change. At the same time, a transition to clean energy technologies could have many immediate benefits for public health. In turn, the costs of decarbonisation could be quickly offset by short-term public health cost savings.

Much of the co-benefits highlighted in “Health and Climate Change: policy responses to protect public health” relate to air pollution – more specifically, the fact that multiple air pollutants are often produced by the same energy technologies. For example, diesel and petrol vehicles, coal power plants, and biomass (for example, wood and charcoal) for cooking produce an array of pollutants that lead to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and respiratory illness in addition to carbon dioxide. In turn, decarbonising the energy sector could quickly reduce air pollution and its direct impacts on public health.

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Tackling climate change improves health and saves money

IlanKelman23 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. (more…)

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening?

Mark AMaslin23 June 2015

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Climate change is one of the few scientific theories that makes us examine the whole basis of modern society. It is a challenge that has politicians arguing, sets nations against each other, queries individual lifestyle choices, and ultimately asks questions about humanity’s relationship with the rest of the planet.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its synthesis report on November 2 2014, a document that brings together the findings from the IPCC’s three main working groups. It reiterates that the evidence for climate change is unequivocal, with evidence for a significant rise in global temperatures and sea level over the last hundred years. It also stresses that we control the future and the magnitude of shifting weather patterns and more extreme climate events depends on how much greenhouse gas we emit.

This is not the end of the world as envisaged by many environmentalists in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but it will mean substantial, even catastrophic challenges for billions of people.

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Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, discuss UCL ISR’s contribution to the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change

PaulEkins23 June 2015