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Floodwaters remain in Helmetta, New Jersey, on Aug. 22 following flash flooding as Tropical Storm Henri swept through. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have experienced a weather disaster since June —  showing the extent to which climate change is impacting people's daily lives. Photo: Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images

Global warming is affecting people's health — and world leaders need to address the climate crisis now as it can't wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, editors of over 230 medical journals warned Sunday evening.

Why it matters: This is the first time so many publications have come together to issue such a joint statement to world leaders, underscoring the severity of the situation — with the Lancet and the British Medical Journal among those issuing the warning.

  • Ahead of this November's UN general assembly and the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the journals warned: "The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5C and to restore nature."

Threat level: "Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world," states the editorial, which also ran in the New England Journal of Medicine, the International Nursing Review, the Chinese Science Bulletin and Brazil's Revista de Saude Publica.

  • "Despite the world's necessary preoccupation with COVID-19, we cannot wait for the pandemic to pass to rapidly reduce emissions."

Of note: World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement ahead of the editorial's publication that the "risks posed by climate change could dwarf those of any single disease."

  • "We will end the COVID-19 pandemic, but there's no vaccine for the climate crisis," Tedros added.
  • The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said last month global warming could reach 1.5°C (2.7°F) compared to pre-industrial levels by 2030.

State of play: The editorial reports that heat-related mortality among people older than 65 has risen by over 50% in the past 20 years.

  • Global warming has also impacted farming production, "hampering efforts to reduce undernutrition," the journal editors-in-chief write.
"Higher temperatures have brought increased dehydration and renal function loss, dermatological malignancies, tropical infections, adverse mental health outcomes, pregnancy complications, allergies, and cardiovascular and pulmonary morbidity and mortality."

The bottom line: "The science is unequivocal: a global increase of 1.5° C above the pre-industrial average and the continued loss of biodiversity risk catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse," the editorial warns.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated Dec 15, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on climate resilience in the health care system

On Wednesday, December 15th, Axios health care editor Tina Reed and senior editor Sam Baker discussed how the health care sector is considering its environmental impact through policy and infrastructure, featuring National Academy of Medicine president Dr. Victor J. Dzau and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.).

Dr. Victor J. Dzau described how various entities can collaborate to drive down health care industry emissions, the intersection between climate change and adverse health effects, and practical steps the industry can take to reduce its own carbon footprint.

  • On health care industry contributions to climate change: “The U.S. health sector contributes 8.5%, as much as even up to 10%, of carbon emissions in the United States, that’s a huge number. As a system that cares for patients, certainly we should not contribute to climate change and the negative health effects of climate change.”
  • On public-private collaboration to reduce industry emissions: “Health care also buys lots of products, and the supply chain emits a huge amount of carbon and greenhouse emissions. So supply chain, such as transportation, packaging, manufacturing, can all change…let’s now think about how to innovate and how to get systematic changes to reduce overall the emission of carbon in our health sector.”

Rep. Lauren Underwood highlighted how the health care industry should be thinking about climate resiliency in their infrastructure, the need for more investment in health care systems amidst a rise in destructive climate-related extreme weather, and how the system as a whole should address its own environmental impact.

  • On the need for more investment in climate resiliency: “The key is getting that incorporated into our policies and procedures at the institution health systems level and making sure that support is there with our federal policies and reimbursement structures to make sure that all patients have access to the health care that they need in the aftermath of these weather-related disasters…”
  • On the role of the health care system in addressing environmental impacts: “I think that at a really tactical level, it’s the responsibility of health care systems to be encouraging their providers to have these conversations with their individual patients, make sure that those patients understand the specific climate change related risks that are associated with the co-morbidities that they may be presenting with.”

Axios Chief Business Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with HDA president & chief executive officer Chester “Chip” Davis, Jr., who explained how the health care sector is working to decarbonize their supply chains.

  • “I think the other thing that you see is many companies in the industry that are focused on laying down their own public-facing commitments to reduce their own carbon footprint. We have a number of our leading members who have talked about setting public goals to, for example, a 50% reduction in their greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.”

Thank you HDA for sponsoring this event.

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, while portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.