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About this book

This open access book not only describes the challenges of climate disruption, but also presents solutions. The challenges described include air pollution, climate change, extreme weather, and related health impacts that range from heat stress, vector-borne diseases, food and water insecurity and chronic diseases to malnutrition and mental well-being.

The influence of humans on climate change has been established through extensive published evidence and reports. However, the connections between climate change, the health of the planet and the impact on human health have not received the same level of attention. Therefore, the global focus on the public health impacts of climate change is a relatively recent area of interest. This focus is timely since scientists have concluded that changes in climate have led to new weather extremes such as floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and fires, in turn leading to more than 600,000 deaths and the displacement of nearly 4 billion people in the last 20 years.

Previous work on the health impacts of climate change was limited mostly to epidemiologic approaches and outcomes and focused less on multidisciplinary, multi-faceted collaborations between physical scientists, public health researchers and policy makers. Further, there was little attention paid to faith-based and ethical approaches to the problem.

The solutions and actions we explore in this book engage diverse sectors of civil society, faith leadership, and political leadership, all oriented by ethics, advocacy, and policy with a special focus on poor and vulnerable populations. The book highlights areas we think will resonate broadly with the public, faith leaders, researchers and students across disciplines including the humanities, and policy makers.

Table of Contents


The Anthropocene: Human–Nature Interactions


Open Access

CHAPTER 1. Complexity of Life and Its Dependence on the Environment

Because of the extensive scientific research carried out over the past 200 years, mainly in biology, astrophysics and geology, we have obtained increasingly better insights into the ongoing evolution of living organisms and their habitats. We have thereby acquired information on the complexity of life and its dependence on the environment, which lead us to better appreciate the need to safeguard the high diversity of both living organisms and their environments. On the one hand, all living organisms interdepend on their cohabitation with other kinds of organisms. On the other hand, the slowly changing living conditions of habitats require a living species to occasionally undergo appropriate genetic variation. Ongoing research projects continue to provide insight into evolutionary processes, which are carried out in nature by self-organization, taking care to safeguard a relatively high genetic stability and also ensuring occasional variations of living conditions and their inhabitants. The human population on our planet should avoid intervening in these naturally ongoing evolutionary processes to ensure high biodiversity and its sustainable long-term development.

Werner Arber

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CHAPTER 2. Biological Extinction and Climate Change

What are the current dimensions of biological diversity? Taxonomists have described approximately two million species of eukaryotic organisms. Many more remain unknown, and the global total may approximate 12 million species or more. Generally, for the past 65 million years, the rate of extinction of these species appears to have been ~0.1 extinctions per million species per year. Now, however, as a result of human activities, it has increased by about 1000 times, to ~100 species per million per year. We are losing species at about 1000 times the rate at which new ones are evolving. Many species are local and particularly liable to extinction, with climate change and increasing human-related pressures of all kinds pushing very strongly on life as it exists. Most of the species cannot be saved by forming parks and protected areas or away from their natural habitats unless human pressures are lessened by general action among nations, a prospect that is not being well realized at present. The strong call for the preservation of biodiversity in the encyclical Laudato Si’ represents the kind of ethical responsibility that must be adopted if there is to be any hope for the survival of our civilization.

Peter H. Raven

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CHAPTER 3. Sustaining Life: Human Health–Planetary Health Linkages

Our beautiful planet has been profoundly altered by human activities. Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, land use changes, and disrupted cycles of water, nitrogen, and phosphorus, to name several alterations, in turn have far-reaching impacts on human health, especially targeting the most vulnerable. Planetary Health approaches the health of people and the health of the planet as inextricably linked. This chapter introduces the Planetary Health framework by exploring four examples: climate change, chemical contamination, land use changes, and biodiversity loss. It concludes by considering innovative ways of thinking, and novel ethical considerations, raised by the current crisis of planetary degradation.

Howard Frumkin

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CHAPTER 4. How Do Our Actions Undermine Nature?

The global growth experience since the end of the Second World War has given us two conflicting messages. On the one hand, if we look at the state of the biosphere (fresh water, ocean fisheries, the atmosphere as a carbon sink—more generally, ecosystems), there is strong evidence that the rates at which we are utilizing them are unsustainable. For example, the rate of biological extinctions globally today is 10–1000 times the average rate over the past several million years (the “background rate”). The mid-twentieth century years are acknowledged to have been the beginnings of an era that environmental scientists now call the Anthropocene (Vosen, 2016), during which the processes that define the biosphere are being altered enormously (see Waters et al. 2016).On the other hand, it is argued by many that just as previous generations in the West and (and more recently in the Far East) invested in science and technology, education, and machines and equipment so as to bequeath to the present generation the ability to achieve high living standards, we in turn can make investments that would assure still higher living standards in the future. In 1950, global income per capita was approximately 3500 international dollars (at 2011 prices) and world population was about 2.5 billion. In 2015, the corresponding figures were 15,000 international dollars and 7.5 billion. A somewhat-greater-than 12-fold increase in global income over a 65-year period is unprecedented, that too starting at a 3500 international dollars base. The years immediately following the Second World War are routinely praised by commentators for being the start of the Golden Age of Capitalism (Micklethwait and Wooldridge (2000), Ridley (2010), Norberg (2016), and Pinker (2017) are a sample of books with that message).We should not be surprised that the Anthropocene and the Golden Age of Capitalism began at about the same time. We should also not be surprised that the conflicting signals of the 65 years following 1950, particularly the potentially irreversible changes to the biosphere, do not receive much airing by economic commentators. That is because contemporary models of economic growth and development (e.g. Helpman, 2004) largely ignore their damaging impacts on the workings of the biosphere.

Partha Dasgupta

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CHAPTER 5. Climate Change, Air Pollution, and Health: Common Sources, Similar Impacts, and Common Solutions

We are living in the Anthropocene. Human beings have become a major force by massively polluting the air we breathe as well as the entire atmosphere, which maintains the climate in a habitable zone. Close to one trillion tons of air and climate pollutants are blanketing the earth, and trillions of additional tons will be added this century. Millions of people are dying prematurely every year due to air pollution. If climate pollutant emissions are allowed to continue well into the twenty-first century, global warming and climate change can pose existential threats to Homo sapiens and many other species. The dominant sources of air pollution and climate change are the same: (1) combustion of fossil fuels and biomass for energy; and (2) agriculture, including livestock. Both air pollution and climate change have catastrophic impacts on human health, exposing billions of people to toxic pollution, deadly heat waves, floods, droughts, and fires. Basically, fossil fuel has become an outdated fuel. There is still time to mitigate and avoid the worst consequences. An integral strategy to mitigate air pollution and climate pollution is required because drastic emission cuts in climate pollutants, such as by switching from fossil fuels to abundantly available renewable fuels, will also reduce air pollution. Less wasteful use of fertilizers and greater consumption of a plant-based diet are also required. Technical solutions have to be bolstered by societal transformation solutions to solve the problem in time and transition to a safer Anthropocene.

Veerabhadran Ramanathan

Air Pollution, Climate Change, and Health: The Underlying Science and Impacts


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CHAPTER 6. Air Pollution: Adverse Effects and Disease Burden

At the time of the Workshop in 2017, the scientific evidence was certain: ambient air pollution, that is, contamination of outdoor air consequent to man’s activities, is a major cause of morbidity (ill health) and premature mortality (early death). While the rise of ambient air pollution is relatively recent, air pollution has probably had adverse effects on human health throughout history. In fact, the respiratory tract, which includes the nose, throat and lungs, has a remarkable system of defense mechanisms to protect against inhaled particles and gases. The use of fire for heating and cooking came with exposure to smoke, an exposure that persists today for the billions who use biomass fuels for cooking and heating. The rise of cities concentrated the emissions of pollutants from dwellings and industry and led to air pollution that was likely affecting health centuries ago. Continued industrialization and also electric power generation brought new point sources of pollution into areas adjacent to where people lived and worked. During the twentieth century, cars, trucks, and other fossil fuel–powered vehicles became a ubiquitous pollution source in higher-income countries and created a new type of pollution—photochemical pollution, or “smog”—first recognized in the Los Angeles air basin in the 1940s. The unprecedented growth of some urban areas to form “megacities,” such as Mexico City, São Paulo, London, and Shanghai, has led to unrelenting air pollution from massive vehicle fleets and snarled traffic and from polluting industries and coal-burning power plants. With population growth and urbanization, ever more megacities are anticipatesd; the current total of cities with a population over 10 million has now reached 31.

Jonathan M. Samet

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CHAPTER 7. Air Pollution, Oxidative Stress, and Public Health in the Anthropocene

Air pollution severely affects air quality, climate, and public health in the Anthropocene, which is the present era of globally pervasive anthropogenic influence on planet Earth. Thus, we need to understand how humanity can best deal with the sources and effects of air pollutants in relation to economic development, human welfare, and environmental preservation. Recent advances in scientific research provide deep insights into the underlying physical, chemical, and biological processes that link air pollution with health effects and reveal the relative importance of different pollutants and sources, including natural and anthropogenic contributions. This knowledge enables the development of efficient strategies and policies to mitigate and counteract the adverse effects of air pollution on the Earth system, climate, and human health (“planetary health”). Building on open access to scholarly publications and data, a global commons of scholarly knowledge in the sciences and humanities will help to augment, communicate, and utilize the scientific understanding. Moreover, public peer review, interactive discussion, and documentation of the scientific discourse on the internet can serve as examples and blueprints for rational and transparent approaches to resolving complex questions and issues (“epistemic web”). With regard to the development, societal communication, and political implementation of appropriate policies for air quality management, it seems worthwhile to emphasize that climate and health effects are two facets of global environmental change that can be and need to be handled together. The Anthropocene notion may help humanity to recognize both rationally and emotionally: We are shaping our planet and environment, so let us get it right.

Ulrich Pöschl

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CHAPTER 8. Climate Change, Air Pollution, and the Environment: The Health Argument

There are no aspects of climate and environmental change that are more critical than those that affect health and well-being, and none are more urgent than those that affect the most vulnerable. Air pollution and climate change fit both these categories, and now rank among our greatest contemporary threats to human health.This is what we know: 92% of the global population breathes air pollution levels that are unsafe. More than seven million lives are lost to indoor and ambient air pollution every year. The major sources of air pollution are the combustion of fossil fuels, the burning of biomass, and agriculture. Global health and welfare losses from air pollution in 2013 were valued at about US $5110 billion, or almost 7% of gross domestic product. However, there is no policy realm in the world that regularly takes into consideration the potential costs and benefits to public health of all decisions, even those that directly produce health-influencing externalities.Health should be central to discussions around drivers of environmental degradation, such as production methods that pollute, deleterious consumption, distribution patterns and disruption of ecosystems. Moreover, the attainment of health should be promoted as an explicit aim, rather than an afterthought, of decisions in key sectors such as energy, transport, technology, water and sanitation, and urban planning. The health sector must show leadership and work with other sectors to assume its obligations in shaping a healthy and sustainable future. The effects of human actions on the environment are an ethical and human rights issue; they will be felt by future generations and have the most severe impact on the most economically, demographically, and geographically vulnerable populations.At this point in history, no decision-maker can claim to be ignorant of the adverse health consequences of environmental degradation. Together, we have a major responsibility to drive the transformation needed to make radical changes in policies and behaviors—while there is still time.

Maria Neira, Veerabhadran Ramanathan

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CHAPTER 9. Reducing Air Pollution: Avoidable Health Burden

Anthropogenic emissions have transformed atmospheric composition to the extent that biogeochemical cycles, air quality, and climate have changed globally and profoundly. It is estimated that ambient (outdoor) air pollution causes an excess mortality rate of about 4.5 million per year, associated with 122 million years of life lost annually, mostly due to the detrimental health effects of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Globally, the largest source of this pollution is residential energy use for heating and cooking, notably because of its importance in Asia. Agriculture, power production, and road traffic also contribute significantly. If residential energy emissions could be eliminated, up to 1.4 million deaths per year would be avoided. Agriculture, through the release of ammonia, contributes strongly to PM2.5. A study of health benefits achieved through European legislation since 1970 indicates that emission controls in the transport and energy sectors have prevented approximately 61,000 deaths per year in Europe and 163,000 per year worldwide, the latter through new technology that penetrated global markets. However, much stronger measures are needed to substantially lower the health burden from air pollution. Clean air is a human right, being fundamental to many sustainable development goals of the United Nations, such as good health, climate action, sustainable cities, clean energy, and protecting life on land and in the sea.

Jos Lelieveld

Climate Change and Health: Sustainability and Vulnerable Populations and Regions


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CHAPTER 10. Vulnerable Populations and Regions: Middle East as a Case Study

There are published analyses predicting that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will be the most affected by climate change and global warming. This region has a multitude of factors that makes it more vulnerable to climate change. It is the first region in the world expected to run out of fresh water. It has diversity in income levels between one country and another, but most low-income countries rely on farming and agriculture that is rain-dependent, and there is poor governance and lack of resources to address the impact of climate change through adaptation. There is genuine interest by the MENA countries to address climate change through submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by many countries in the region, but there is a lack of implementation with regard to climate change action plans and no public awareness within countries in the region. The heat waves, sand storms, declines in agriculture and food security, declines in water access, and associated health outcomes in this region are going to drive more migration within and outside the specific countries. The health impact from these climate change scenarios will be overwhelming in many regions in MENA, even if the target 2 °C global minimum temperature increase is achieved. There is a dearth of data from the MENA region regarding climate change and its impact on health.

Wael K. Al-Delaimy

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CHAPTER 11. Climate Change Risks for Agriculture, Health, and Nutrition

The stability of global, national, and local food systems is at risk under climate change. Climate change affects food production, availability of and access to food, food quality, food safety, diet quality, and thus people’s nutrition and health. Climate change may further slow progress towards a world with food security for all. Climate change impacts will exacerbate food shortages, especially in areas that already show a high prevalence of food insecurity. Climate change will affect good nutrition through complex indirect pathways, such as income shocks when droughts or floods occur, loss of employment opportunities, health effects resulting from air pollution and changed water systems. A conceptual framework for a food systems analysis is presented here, and the linkages within the system and expected changes among them are elaborated—some on a global scale and some on a micro scale. Policy actions are proposed and research gaps are identified.

Joachim von Braun

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CHAPTER 12. Sustaining Water Resources

Life depends on water and there are no substitutes. Fundamental to the functioning of the Earth’s system, water is a renewable natural resource that is available in finite amounts. Human appropriation of freshwater resources is mainly used for agriculture. To prevent loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, the growing demand for agricultural products will likely need to be met by enhancing crop yields in currently cultivated land rather than through farmland expansion. Because of local limitations in water availability, irrigation can be sustainably expanded only in part by the currently rain-fed farmland. Any further withdrawal from water bodies would deplete environmental flows or groundwater stocks. Local water deficits (i.e., gaps between availability and demand, including water for food) are often compensated for by food imports from water-rich regions and the associated transfers of “virtual water.” Thus, water is a strategic resource that has become strongly globalized and controlled by a few countries, while the rest of the world is in conditions of trade dependency. Water-saving strategies—based on food waste reduction, moderation of diets, use of more suitable crops, or increased water use efficiency—need to be adopted in order to meet human needs without compromising water sustainability.

Paolo D’Odorico, Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe

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CHAPTER 13. Health Climate Justice and Deforestation in the Amazon

Health is a dimension of tropical deforestation that deserves greater attention in light of current trends of climate change, environmental degradation and national and subnational development policies. Forest fires are becoming more frequent and larger in scale globally (Baccini et al., 2017). Deforestation fuels global warming, and reducing forest fires is essential to meet the Paris Agreement targets (UNEP, 2018).

Virgilio Viana

Climate Change and Health: Perspectives from Physicians


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CHAPTER 14. Psychological Impacts of Climate Change and Recommendations

Although the harm to our physical health from the climate crisis is increasingly reported, still underrecognized is the harm the climate crisis is having on us psychologically. Yet it is the psychological impacts of global overheating—and the consequent cascading destabilization of ecosystems—that will carry the biggest burden and be the most difficult to remedy. It requires our utmost attention. Understanding the gravity of the mounting psychological harm underscores the urgent need for all those concerned, especially public officials, to take action. The devastating psychological and physical impacts of the tragedy of lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan, in microcosm, serves as a recent example to those who would downplay harm to our health in the face of ongoing warnings and pleas for action. The psychological aspects of the climate crisis are increasingly drawing the attention of mental health professionals. They are uniquely qualified and urgently needed to address the denial, discounting, or distancing that feed inaction, and to point out the deepening injustice of putting vulnerable populations at risk, especially our children and future generations. They are also needed to advocate for programs that address climate anxiety and trauma, and to design programs that build resilience. The mounting risk of an epidemic of fear, outrage and despair calls for mental health professionals to play a pivotal role in what has become a do-or-die effort to restore humanity and the rest of the natural world to safety. All of the losses associated with climate change—from extreme weather events and chronic climate conditions to the devastating physical injuries, illnesses, and deaths and the attendant displacement, disruptions and downstream indirect ripple effects—carry with them an emotional toll. The magnitude and relentlessness of the destruction, as well as the insinuation into every aspect of our lives—economic, personal, political—must be recognized as we consider the mental health and psychosocial impacts of the deepening crisis.

Lise Van Susteren, Wael K. Al-Delaimy

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CHAPTER 15. Air Pollution and Cardiovascular Disease: A Proven Causality

Epidemiological data has shown that air pollution accounts for at least six million deaths per year worldwide. Cardiovascular disease ranks first among the causes of death from pollution, yet it is largely neglected. There is compelling evidence from studies in different world regions showing a causal relationship between air pollution and cardiovascular disease, but this information has not reached the scientific community at large and much less the general public. Gaseous and particle pollutants access the circulation through the lungs and accelerate atherosclerosis by altering blood pressure, lipids, oxidative processes, and insulin resistance. They affect all individuals from the maternal uterus to old age. Almost the entire population in Asian countries is exposed to severely elevated levels of pollutants and most other countries have vascular-damaging levels. More than 80% of the affected individuals belong to emerging regions. The use of N95 masks reduces the exposure to PM2.5, the most damaging particle. Physicians should consider air pollution as a recognized risk factor for vascular disease and act accordingly with patients exposed to different levels of pollutants. The only way to limit the worsening levels of pollution worldwide is to increase the joint efforts among science, governments and other leadership to generate a climate change conscious society and increase efforts to reach a decarbonized world by mid-century.

Conrado J. Estol

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CHAPTER 16. Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Holistic Thinking

In the context of our broad ecological calamity, we highlight the linkages between climate change and human health. Holism is offered as a unifying model and process to align and foster individual, community, and planetary health and thereby address our existential crisis. We explain healthcare’s significant climate footprint and the obligation and opportunity for the healthcare sector to think and act holistically. Our linear economy is used as another example to explain how mechanistic thinking fuels ecological degradation, inequality, and adverse health outcomes. Action steps that support a healthy planet for all now and for all future generations are offered along with guidance for healthcare systems and health professionals.

Jamie Harvie, Erminia Guarneri

Climate Change and Health: Social Impacts


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CHAPTER 17. Climate Change, Public Health, Social Peace

Human well-being results from multiple interactions between highly diverse issues and actors. Crucial factors range from basic hygiene to social cohesion and environmental integrity. In this century, the development of a critical triangle of challenges—consisting of climate change, public health, and social peace—will determine whether a good life for all people on Earth is possible, at least in principle. Those three challenges may seem rather unrelated at first glance, but they are closely tied together and cannot be properly understood in isolation. In this chapter, we highlight essential aspects and relationships according to the current state of the respective arts.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Maria A. Martin

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CHAPTER 18. Climate Justice and Public Health: Practical Ethics in Urgent Times

This chapter reflects on the disproportionate impact of climate change on the most vulnerable people, but argues that the language of “climate justice” may not be the most effective language for communicating the urgency to the general public, and changing attitudes and behaviors around climate change. Drawing on theories of human motivation in the social sciences, the paper argues that most people, most often, tend to be motivated by what most affects them, their families, their neighborhoods, and so forth. This suggests that the likely health impacts of climate change might be a more effective way of communicating with those who are not motivated by the narrative of social justice to change their attitudes and behaviors. Because the health impacts of climate change can be generalized to all of us, it is likelier to motivate a shift in attitudes in behavior among larger publics. The chapter concludes with reflections on how to integrate public health more effectively into our communications about climate change.

Fonna Forman

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CHAPTER 19. Health of People, Health of the Planet, Health of Migrants

Migration is as old as mankind. Modern humans are the children of immigration (Antón, Potts, & Aiello, 2014). Today’s migrations unfold in complex ecologies involving demographic factors, economic variables, social practices, political processes, historical relationships, the environment itself, and various combinations thereof (McLeman, 2014). In the twenty-first century, mass migration is the human face of globalization—the sounds, colors, and aromas of a miniaturized, interconnected, and ever-fragile world. Above all, migration is a condition of all humanity.

Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

Overarching Solutions: The Role of Religion


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CHAPTER 20. Faith in God and the Health of People

Engaging religious groups in environmental stewardship for human health begins with their theological presuppositions and is most persuasive when influenced by those leaders who share their faith.

Leith Anderson

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CHAPTER 21. Caring for Creation: The Evangelical’s Guide

Understanding creation care as pro-life helps the evangelical and Catholic communities relate to environmental concerns as more than interest in fauna and flora but as a primary matter of life for our children, the Majority World’s poor, and even many of the economically disadvantaged in the United States whose homes border some of our country’s most toxic air, foulest water, and polluted soil.

Mitchell C. Hescox

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CHAPTER 22. Call to Action from Faith Leaders

This chapter will consider the responsibilities of faith leaders in pursuing the agenda of the health of people and the health of the planet—not least because of the particular opportunities and contributions available to faith communities at this significant moment of our global history. Consideration will be given to two key areas: first, the context into which faith leaders are challenged to contribute to this crucial agenda, and second, some possible responses, challenges and perspectives that faith leaders might offer.

Alastair Redfern

Overarching Solutions: The Role of Science and Technology


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CHAPTER 23. Public Health Co-benefits of Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The public health co-benefits that curbing climate change would have may make greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategies more attractive and increase their implementation. The primary purpose of this chapter is to review the evidence on GHG mitigation measures and the related health co-benefits; identify potential mechanisms, uncertainties, and knowledge gaps; and provide recommendations to promote further development and implementation of climate change response policies at both national and global levels. Evidence of the effects of GHG abatement measures and related health co-benefits has been observed at regional, national, and global levels, involving both low- and high-income societies. GHG mitigation actions have mainly been taken in five sectors—energy generation, transport, food and agriculture, households, and industry—consistent with the main sources of GHG emissions. GHGs and air pollutants to a large extent stem from the same sources and are inseparable in terms of their atmospheric evolution and effects on ecosystems; thus, reductions in GHG emissions are usually, although not always, estimated to have cost-effective co-benefits for public health. Some integrated mitigation strategies involving multiple sectors, which tend to create greater health benefits, have also been investigated, and this chapter discusses the pros and cons of different mitigation measures, issues with existing knowledge, priorities for research, and policy implications. Findings from this study can play a role not only in motivating large GHG emitters to make decisive changes in GHG emissions, but also in facilitating cooperation at international, national, and regional levels to promote GHG mitigation policies that protect public health from climate change and air pollution simultaneously.

Qiyong Liu, Jinghong Gao

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CHAPTER 24. Good Health in the Anthropocene Epoch: Potential for Transformative Solutions

Unprecedented environmental changes threaten to reverse progress on health and development unless they are addressed by decisive actions. The implementation of policies to reduce the environmental impact of human societies can reduce risks and also bring a range of near-term health benefits—for example, from lowered emissions of pollutants co-emitted with greenhouse gases. This chapter outlines potential transformative policies in sectors such as energy, transport, urban development and food systems, which can reduce their environmental footprint and improve health.

Andy Haines

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CHAPTER 25. Well Under 2 °C: Ten Solutions for Carbon Neutrality and Climate Stability

Climate change is becoming an existential threat with warming in excess of 2 °C within the next three decades and 4–6 °C within the next several decades. Warming of such magnitudes will expose as many as 75% of the world’s population to deadly heat stress in addition to disrupting the climate and weather worldwide. Climate change is an urgent problem requiring urgent solutions. This chapter lays out urgent and practical solutions that are ready for implementation now, will deliver benefits in the next few critical decades, and place the world on a path to achieving the long-term targets of the Paris Agreement. The approach consists of four building blocks and three levers to implement ten scalable solutions described in this chapter. These solutions will enable society to decarbonize the global energy system by 2050 through efficiency and renewables, drastically reduce short-lived climate pollutants, and stabilize the warming well below 2 °C both in the near term (before 2050) and in the long term (after 2050). The solutions include an atmospheric carbon extraction lever to remove CO2 from the air. The amount of CO2 that must be removed ranges from negligible (if the emissions of CO2 from the energy system and short-lived climate pollutants have started to decrease by 2020 and carbon neutrality is achieved by 2050) to a staggering one trillion tons (if the carbon lever is not pulled and emissions of climate pollutants continue to increase until 2030).

V. Ramanathan, M. L. Molina, D. Zaelke, N. Borgford-Parnell

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CHAPTER 26. Defeating Energy Poverty: Invest in Scalable Solutions for the Poor

Energy poverty is arguably the most pervasive and crippling threat society faces today. Lack of access impacts several billion people, with immediate health, educational, economic, and social damage. Furthermore, how this problem is addressed will result in the largest accelerant of global pollution or the largest opportunity to pivot away from fossil fuels onto the needed clean energy path. In a clear example of the power of systems thinking, energy poverty and climate changeEnergy povertyand climate change together present a dual crisis of energy injustice along gender, ethnic, and socioeconomic grounds, which has been exacerbated if not outright caused by a failure of the wealthy to see how tightly coupled our global collective fate is if addressing climate change fairly and inclusively does not become an immediate, actionable priority.While debate exists on the optimal path or paths to wean our economy from fossil fuelsEnergy povertyfossil fuels Fossil fuels , there is no question that technically we now have sufficient knowledge and a sufficient technological foundation to launch and to even complete decarbonization. What is critically needed is an equally powerful social narrative to accelerate the clean energy transitionClean energy transition. Laudato Si’ provides a compelling foundation built on the narrative around the health, climate, and social benefits of a global green energy transitionGreen energy transitionsocial benefits. The Green New Deal in the USA is a political movement that grows from this new understanding of sound stewardship and respect for the planet and its inhabitants.This chapter presents examples and formulation of an action agenda to defeat energy poverty and energy injustice.

Daniel M. Kammen

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CHAPTER 27. Sensor-Enabled Climate Financing for Clean Cooking

Household indoor air pollution kills approximately four million people every year. Affordable access to usable clean energy technologies is essential for the poorest three billion, who rely on solid fuels for cooking, heating, and lighting, to protect themselves from air pollution and to adapt to devastating climate changes. Project Surya has developed an innovative, collaborative approach, called Sensor-enabled Climate Financing (SCF) (Ramanathan et al., 2017), that aligns the objectives of clean energy implementers, stove manufacturers, governments, and multinationals with the needs of the individual women and families they strive to impact. SCF is a verified solution to the sector-wide problems of clean cookstove affordability and adoption.

Nithya Ramanathan, Erin Ross, Tara Ramanathan, Jesse Ross, Martin Lukac, Denisse Ruiz

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CHAPTER 28. Research Is Vital to Tackling Climate Change, But It Cannot Succeed Alone

Our Planet, Our Health is Wellcome’s contribution to the growing field of Planetary Health. The world needs focused research to better understand how health is affected by global environmental changes, including climate change, and how we can mitigate these health impacts and the environmental changes. We call on researchers to work with us, and on civic society, industry and governments to support researchers, apply their findings and build an equitable movement of research into practice to improve our health. We call on governments, industry and civic society to support these researchers—commit to acknowledging and employing their findings and recommendations. Through policies and legislation, governments can do what no one else can, while foundations like Wellcome and others complement their work, taking risks, doing what governments cannot and together we can help industry play its part, secure in the knowledge that there is a pipeline of great people and ideas coming through. But if governments step back from progress in planetary health, the gaps cannot be filled by anyone else. We can be optimistic, if our optimism drives us all to act now for the sake of current and future generations.

Jeremy Farrar

Call to Action


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CHAPTER 29. Governor of California

It is a privilege to participate in one of the crucial steps in the process of making the turn to a climate-sustainable world, which is to call attention to the catastrophic health impacts of climate change. Much has been said about California and that is appropriate because California, in fact, has been doing quite a lot.

Edmund G. Brown

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CHAPTER 30. United States Congressman

Scott Peters represents California’s 52nd Congressional District, including the cities of Poway, Coronado and most of San Diego. He is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and is a former environmental attorney, San Diego City Council President and Port Commission Chairman.

Scott Peters

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CHAPTER 31. Challenges and Opportunities for a Sustainable Planet

We know that population and consumption are the two primary drivers of dangerous environmental changes. And we already possess the technologies and capabilities required to address them. It is well past time for us to translate that into determined global action. Politically, we must shift from a nation-based approach to one of true global solutions. Socially, we must realize that the world is already over-developed and that averting crisis means reducing unsustainable consumption as well as improving the lives of the poor. Technologically, as we pursue innovations that will take us back to sunshine as the dominant source of energy, we must also develop ways of sharing and distributing renewable energy across borders. It is not too late for us to turn things around, but we do not have much time left.

Yuan T. Lee

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CHAPTER 32. Sustainable Development Goals and Health: Toward a Revolution in Values

Pope Francis calls for a revolution in governance, to manage technologies for the common good. In my mind, this brings us back to politics in the tradition of Aristotle rather than the tradition of Machiavelli. For Aristotle, politics is about wellbeing (eudaimonia) of the polis, the political community. For Machiavelli, politics is about the struggle for power, little more. It should be clear that we are today living in Machiavelli’s political world, not in Aristotle’s.

Jeffrey D. Sachs

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CHAPTER 33. A Call to Action by Health Professionals

To achieve the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement—limiting global warming to no more than 2 °C (and if possible 1.5 °C)—and thereby avoid the most harmful impacts of climate change to human health and well-being, the global community must dramatically reduce its use of fossil fuels in the very near future (Allen et al., 2018; Figueres et al., 2017). This goal can be achieved if global carbon emissions peak by 2020, and fall rapidly to near zero over the next several decades (Rockstrom et al., 2017; Rogelj et al., 2018). Approximately half of the necessary emissions reductions have already been pledged by the nations of the world in the Paris Agreement, assuming that all nations remain in the agreement. If success is to be achieved, nations must collectively double current global commitments over the next few years. Realizing the 1.5° goal will require even bolder action (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2018). Building the political will necessary for this to happen will not be easy, but doing so is imperative. Health professionals are in a unique position to help build the necessary political will.

Edward Maibach, Mona Sarfaty, Rob Gould, Nitin Damle, Fiona Armstrong


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