Declaration on Climate Change & Human Health
Discussed and approved at the ISDE Day Meeting (Budapest, 1997)

ISDE, consisting of physicians and health professionals, is strongly concerned about the potentially devastating and possibly irreversible effects of climate change on human health and the environment. We urge you to take prompt and effective actions to achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

There is mounting evidence that climate change, of the scale currently projected, would have pervasive adverse impacts on human health and result in significant loss of life. Potential impacts include increased mortality and illness due to heat stress, worsened air pollution, increased incidents of vector-borne infectious diseases such as malaria, schistosomiasis and dengue, diseases related to water supply and sanitation, and increased food-borne illnesses. Expanding populations of pest species, impaired food production and nutrition, and extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, forest fires and windstorms would pose additional risks to human health. Infants, children and other vulnerable populations — especially in already-stressed regions of the world — would likely suffer disproportionately from these impacts.

ISDE strongly supports the credibility and integrity of the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in December 1995. This report concludes for the first time that observed changes in climate are not simply the result of natural variability, but that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate."

The weight of the evidence and scientific consensus are sufficient to warrant immediate action.

ISDE members believe firmly in the wisdom of preventative action, we endorse strong policy measures to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, as called for in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Taking steps now to prevent disease, illness, and injury will not only diminish the potential for wide-spread human suffering but reduce the high costs of treating illnesses which might have been avoided.

ISDE commends the commitment of many nations to negotiate an internationally binding and verifiable agreement establishing targets and timetables for meaningful reductions in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. We strongly support this goal and ask for continued cooperation in moving the international community toward this objective by the end of 1997.

At the same time, ISDE urges you to take immediate action to advance policies designed to increase efficiency in the use and production of energy around the world, and to accelerate the development and transfer of energy-saving and renewable energy technologies worldwide. Numerous studies, including IPCC's Second Assessment, conclude that such policies can achieve significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little or no cost.

The time has come for the nations of the world to act. The science is credible, and the potential impacts profound. Prudence — and a commitment to act responsibly on behalf of the world's children and all future generations — dictate a prompt and effective response to climate change.