While COVID-19 is far from over, the World Health Organization (WHO) is focusing on a growing new concern – climate action and how it’s impacting our health and well-being.

At the 76th World Health Assembly last week, panelists were impassioned in their plea for urgent steps to curb climate change.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said the “climate crisis is a health crisis” that is fueling outbreaks and contributing to higher rates of non-communicable diseases, all of which are threatening to overwhelm our healthcare workforce.

Climate change deniers can deny all they want, but there is no question that our earth is not the same as it used to be; we are seeing more climate mayhem in the form of more frequent and devastating fires and floods worldwide, and it’s taking a tragic toll on our health and safety.

We agree that our changing climate is shaping up to be one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century. As we burn coal, oil and gas (fossil fuels) to generate electricity, more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases blanket the earth, resulting in rising temperatures and global warming. It’s a vicious cycle that we continue to get trapped in. 

John Kerry, United States special presidential envoy for climate change, boldly stated that the climate crisis is “killing people” and decisive action is needed.

We’re giving panelist Dr. Maria Neira a thumbs up for unveiling three challenges that the health community must address: confronting health repercussions stemming from the crisis; establishing resilient health systems to navigate this battle; and changing to a low-carbon society showing the important relation between environmental sustainability and human well-being.

Climate change is bringing more extreme weather catastrophes to all of our shores, leaving much damage and death in its wake. Experts argue that these events are resulting in the spread of infectious diseases and reducing the capacity to achieve universal health coverage.

Mirroring what WHO’s director-general is advocating, we must reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy in our facilities. We are making strides towards these actions but the fear is that it’s too little, too late.                                            

Lyonel Doherty, editor