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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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