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Studies Find That Tackling Climate Change Can Prevent Deaths Worldwide; Doctors Launch Climate Change, Health Group

A series of studies, published in a recent special issue of the journal Lancet, finds that policies aimed at addressing climate change could also improve the health of people worldwide, the Associated Press reports.

“Slashing carbon dioxide emissions could save millions of lives, mostly by reducing preventable deaths from heart and lung diseases, according to” the research. The AP continues, “Global and U.S. health officials unveiled the results as they pushed for health issues to take a more prominent role at upcoming climate change negotiations in Copenhagen” (Borenstein, 11/26).

“The five studies in The Lancet examined policies to reduce emissions from households, transport, electricity generation and agriculture in both developed and developing countries,” Bloomberg writes (Morales, 11/25). “Each study focuses on one sector where greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced … The effect on health of short-lived greenhouse pollutants, produced by several sectors, is also reviewed,” IRIN writes in an article examining the studies (11/27).

One of the studies found that a 10-year program to introduce low-emission stoves in India would decrease “by one-sixth the chronic respiratory and heart disease cases in adults and incidences of breathing disorders in children under 5 there,” according to Bloomberg. “Reducing dairy and meat consumption could also benefit human health and the climate, according to The Lancet. Livestock farming is responsible for the bulk of agricultural emissions because of the methane gas that cows, sheep and pigs emit” (11/25).

Though the Lancet “took an advocacy role in commissioning the studies and timing their release before the Copenhagen summit … the science was not affected by the intent, said journal editor Dr. Richard Horton,” the AP reports (11/26).

In related news, “[s]enior doctors from every continent have joined forces to create” the International Climate and Health Council, Radio Australia reports (Pdoger, 11/26). “Members say while politicians may fear to push for radical changes in greenhouse gas emissions, doctors are under no such constraints. The council includes colleagues from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas and was formed in advance of next month’s major [U.N.] climate change conference in Copenhagen, called COP 15,” VOA News writes. The article includes an interview with Mike Gill, a spokesperson for the new group who is also co-chair of the British Climate and Health Council (DeCapua, 11/27).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.