Taking the Fat Out of Global Warming
LONDON – Mitigating climate change presents unrivaled opportunities for improving human health and well being. Indeed, policies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions promise to bring about substantial reductions in heart disease, respiratory illness, cancer, obesity, diabetes, depression, and road deaths and injuries.
These health benefits arise because climate policy necessarily affects two of the most important determinants of human health: nutrition and movement. Although medical professionals increasingly recognize the health benefits of policies to address climate change, they are not widely appreciated by policymakers themselves. The existence of these health benefits implies a dramatic reduction in the net cost of taking strong action to mitigate climate change – which means that failure to understand their importance could have serious environmental consequences.
Recent research has documented the multiple health benefits of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Meeting emissions targets in the transport sector would require, alongside reductions in car use, modest increases in walking and cycling. Based on the epidemiological evidence linking physical activity and health, the resulting increase in physical activity would dramatically reduce rates of chronic disease, with around 10-20% less heart disease and stroke, 12-18% less breast cancer, and 8% less dementia.