Battling Air Pollution: Save our Health and Earth!The view of IFMSA-NL on air pollution and climate change
This week the news came out that the Dutch Government is getting sued (again) to demand clean air by the “Milieudefensie”, a Dutch NGO that works towards a cleaner and more just world. They made their case on the basis that “every year thousands of people die because of air pollution and even more get sick as a result of it”, according to a representative.
We, as IFMSA-NL, want to express our support of this action. All over the world air pollution causes 1 in 9 deaths and is therefore the biggest environmental health crisis we face. Whilst we may not always see it, invisible particles enter our bodies and are responsible for about one-thirds of deaths from chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and stroke, as well as a cause for asthma according to the Breathe Life Campaign of the WHO and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (hosted by UN Environment).
Besides our health, air pollution also threatens our climate’s health and the impacts of climate change on human health and wellbeing are many - and they are serious. The World Health Organisation estimates approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year worldwide between 2030 and 2050 due to the consequences of climate change.
This is not something for the future or only specific societies. Already, we see that climate change is taking more and more lives through extreme weather events, but that is just the start. Climate change is further threatening health by undermining the social determinants of health. It is causing harm through food insecurity, lack of clean water, mass migration, increased disease and conflict. We, as medical students and future health care workers, might see the effects of climate change on health and on our medical system in our daily lives.
But there is hope and talking about air pollution and climate change does not have to be entirely negative. The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change determined that "tackling Climate Change is the greatest opportunity for global health in the 21st century". In fact, although the economic costs of acting are high, climate action benefits society not only in health but also in net financial savings through health costs. It even makes economic sense to act on climate change.
When it comes to air pollution it’s a 2 for 1 deal. Save the earth and save human health!
Two IFMSA-NL volunteers will be in Bonn for the SB-46 of the UNFCCC, the UN department dealing with Climate Change issues, as part of the IFMSA delegation, advocating for health as a core subject of the negotiations and National Adaptation Plans and that youth, as part of the solution, is engaged into these policy discussions as well as to showcase the efforts IFMSA is doing on the topic.
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