World leading medical journal 'The Lancet' is clear that unchecked climate change will be devastating for human health. However, it also points out the tackling climate change could be 'the biggest global health opportunity of the 21st century'.
This is because policies to address climate change can impact on factors that underpin good health. For example
- Infrastructure and policy to encourage walking/cycling cuts motor vehicle emissions and air pollution, and increases physical exercise, allowing health gains for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and mental health.
- A healthier diet across the population (more fruit/vegetables, less red meat, less saturated fat) would cut agricultural emissions, and lower risk for many diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
- Well insulated homes, with clean and efficient heating, cuts energy emissions as well as reducing illnesses associated with cold, damp housing.
By keeping health and fairness at the centre of climate change policy we have the potential to make large health gains in NZ, with cost savings for the health sector that could offset some of the economic costs of tackling climate change.