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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

What the initial UN Climate Summit attendance list reveals

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The UN Climate Summit set to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow will bring an unprecedented combination of leaders for such an event (even Pope Francis!), and the likely absence of vital players — notably Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

Why it matters: The speeches and backroom meetings at COP26 between leaders on the summit's first two days will set the tone for the rest of the gathering. These will be moments when countries showcase any new pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to meet the Paris Agreement's targets.

Mind the emissions gap

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The sprint to secure more stringent emissions reduction commitments ahead of the COP26 summit has petered out well short of the finish line, a new United Nations report out this morning concludes.

Driving the news: The "Emissions Gap" report offers a clear comparison between where emissions need to be to reach the Paris Agreement's goals, and where they actually are. It takes new and preexisting emissions pledges, called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), into consideration.

The High Ambition Coalition's priorities for the Glasgow climate summit

Then-French Foreign Affairs minister Laurent Fabius, right, greets then-Marshall Islands' Foreign Affairs minister Tony de Brum in his office during the Paris climate summit in December 2015. Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

A coalition to watch at the upcoming Glasgow climate summit is made up of some of the most at-risk countries to climate change that don't traditionally wield much power on the global stage, along with some other nations, like Norway, which have ambitious climate targets.

Why it matters: The power of these countries' moral authority on climate change — their very existence is threatened by sea level rise — helped them play a vital role in securing the Paris Agreement in 2015.