The first thing to know about climate change is that it is not merely an environmental issue. Its impact on human wellbeing has made it imperative for the healthcare community to engage with different strategies to address the problem at scale. With our roots firmly planted in the medical sector, Healthy Climate is uniquely positioned to support this process by sharing knowledge, building a network of carbon-conscious medics, and supporting and creating projects with both climate protection and health benefits.
Our impetus comes from the shared goals of climate mitigation and adaption through the development of sustainable healthcare at international level. We are driven by the belief that the healthcare sector should take the lead in protecting the climate. We also believe that improved health will enable vulnerable people to become more resilient against the threats associated with climate change.
The importance and development of low-carbon healthcare in countries most responsible for anthropogenic climate change has come into the collective medical consciousness, not least through online networks and organisational bodies. Case studies include examples of sustainable procurement, medical waste management, energy-saving hospitals and many more. Our aim is to expand this profile by bringing the idea of the international healthcare provider to the table. It fills a knowledge gap and helps medical professionals expand their role beyond their local hospitals and practice. Together we can make our profession as ‘climate clean’ as possible.
Even if carbon emissions are stabilized, climate change already has inevitable impacts and its effects will last for many years. Action to withstand these impacts is required. Adaptation is defined as adjustments to reduce vulnerability and to increase resilience to climate change. At the most basic level it could be as simple as building a wall to protect coastal towns. On a deeper level, adaptation refers to ways in which the resilience of communties are enhanced through more enduring strategies. Well-known measures include the development of drought-resistant crops or the storage of rainwater. But vulnerability is also closely linked to the social and economic infrastructure of a country. And even though global financing mechanisms like the Green Climate Fund has been created to assist resource-poor regions to enhance their adative capacity, healthcare has not been a priority in traditional adaptation development and funding. This, we believe, shows a mismatch of what is needed on the ground.
The Healthy Climate Group was set up to advocate healthcare development as an adaptation priority. Quite simply, healthier people are less vulnerable to a negative system change. If the head of a household falls ill and the lack of sufficient care leads to death, the resilience of the family and indeed the whole community is affected. If an extreme weather event strikes and there are no facilities to provide effective medical response, the entire region suffers. Tragically, the ability of humans to adapt is unevenly distributed across different regions and populations and developing countries are generally more vulnerable, not least because of inferior healthcare. Although the development of quality healthcare seems like an obvious necessity, its importance has not been recognised by international adaptation policies.
Our goal is to create programmes that will make climate change funders and decision makers engage better with the medical community. Developing renewable energy for healthcare facilities is a straight-forward strategy that has mutual appeal. And while we believe that training medical professionals, providing equipment, and a reliable source of much-needed pharmaceuticals are of equal importance, finding common ground is an important first step. Hence the Climate Medics community.