Climate change not only causes global climate disasters, threatening human survival and security, but also has significant impact on human health. According to a research report by the World Health Organization, “Climate change undermines health determinants and increases pressures on health systems, threatening to reverse decades of progress to promote human health and well-being, particularly in the most vulnerable communities”. This results in increased mortality rates and the accelerated spread of vector-borne diseases. Additionally, climate-related disasters contribute to environmental degradation, causing a range of physiological and psychological stress among individuals. The implications of climate change on human well-being underscore the urgent need for global action to mitigate its effects and protect public health.
Advocating Red Meat Tax and Collaborative Action
On December 2nd, during side event of COP28, statements from Ms. Lujain Alqodmani, President of the World Medical Association, and Ms. Lina Mahy from the World Health Organization emphasized the potential of dietary transformation in mitigating climate change. In 2019, scientists collaborated with the medical journal "The Lancet" and the non-governmental organization "EAT Forum" to devise the "Planetary Health Diet."
This diet guide recommended an 84% reduction in red meat consumption in North America and a 75% reduction in Europe, to effectively reduce the environmental impact that results from greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the guide suggested a shift towards a plant-based diet in all meals as crucial to ease the strain on the Earth's teetering food system. The report underscored the necessity for global cooperation, and proposed concrete actions such as the imposition of red meat taxes by governments and specific initiatives to safeguard farmland and protect oceans.
This initiative not only presents a tangible solution to climate change but also advocates policy measures that can drive impactful change. The call for a red meat tax is a bold step toward encouraging sustainable dietary choices and fostering a collaborative effort to safeguard the planet's future.
Impact of Climate Disasters on Women: A Call for Inclusive Solutions
On December 3rd, at a side event held at the Faith Pavilion, Tzu Chi volunteer Lin Mei Feng led a discussion on "Interfaith Feminist Climate Justice for the Human Right to a Healthy Environment." This covered the specific challenges faced by women after climate disasters. Lin shared insights from a United Nations Women's Report; it projected that, by 2050, 158 million women would fall into poverty, and 260 million would face food insecurity. Given the relative vulnerability of women compared to men in the face of climate change, the impact on women is disproportionately severe. The discussion emphasized the importance of including women in climate mitigation and adaptation discussions.
Dr. Manjo Kurian, a participant in the discussion, highlighted the significant role nature plays in shaping human perceptions of women. He pointed out that, in cultures like India, the land and rivers nurturing human civilization are often personified as mothers or females. The land and rivers symbolize the fountains of human life, representing a mother's selfless nurturing and protection of her children. The destruction inflicted upon the Earth today is like the harm befalling a mother, and evokes a sense of sorrow.
This discussion underscored the urgent need for gender-inclusive climate policies, recognizing the unique vulnerabilities faced by women and emphasizing the crucial role they play in shaping sustainable solutions for our planet.
This image illustrates the adverse effects of climate change on human health. | Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation
Shaping the Future of Healthcare to Confront Climate Change
On the afternoon of December 3rd, a Tzu Chi delegation, led by Vice Superintendent Lin Ming-Nan of Dalin Tzu Chi Hospital, participated in discussions on "Forging a Medical Future to Address Climate Change." Five physicians from different countries shared insights into the health challenges caused by climate change.
Dr. Ankush K. Bansal from the United States cited malaria as an example, noting an unexpected resurgence of cases this year after years of absence. Dr. Dave Ojijo from Kenya highlighted the establishment of a physician organization actively promoting climate-related preventive healthcare in Kenya, to address issues such as malnutrition. Dr. Kimberly Humphrey from Australia, an emergency room physician, described firsthand encounters with patients affected by climate change-induced injuries; she emphasized the urgent need for responsive measures.
Vice Superintendent Lin Ming-Nan showcased Tzu Chi's commitment to integrating climate issues into healthcare management. This includes energy conservation, greenhouse emission reduction, waste reduction, environmental education promotion, and a strong push for vegetarianism in our diet — a collective effort to fulfill our responsibility towards the Earth. He closed with a quote from Master Cheng Yen, founder of Tzu Chi: "Say what I say, do what I do." He encouraged everyone to implement environmentally friendly behavior in their lives.
Current research indicates that 37% of heat-related deaths are attributed to climate change. Over the past two decades, there has been a 70% increase in deaths among individuals aged 65 and above due to high temperatures. The climate crisis is also worsening regional and interregional inequalities. This global medical discourse calls for collective action to address climate change and its profound impact on health and well-being.