On Friday 22th September our EVS Volunteers attended the international conference on “Climate Change and Health: the Challenges and Opportunities” which took place at the National University of Ireland in Galway.
During the morning various speakers presented different aspects of the interconnectivity between direct and indirect impacts of a changing climate and the human population dynamics. For instance, in the future we will assist to an increase of malnutrition among children living in countries largely exposed to severe and extreme climate events such as floods, droughts and heatwaves as well as the increase of mental illnesses and other diseases which could emerge from these types of phenomena.
Dr. Nicholas Watts, the Lancet Countdown, highlighted how climate change can potentially undermine the progress made in global health during the last 50 years and the response to it can be the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Joni Pegram, Senior Climate Change Policy and Advocacy Adviser for UNICEF UK, emphasised how child rights are being very often overlooked in national and international climate policies and vice versa.
John O’Neill, Department of Communication, Climate Action and Environment, illustrated the institutional and policy framework on climate change at national level and the key role that the local authorities are called to play at local level in the fight to climate change. Lastly, Dr. Ina Kelly of the NHS Midlands pointed out the importance to build a climate-resilient health infrastructure and to be prepared for extreme events with appropriate planning.
Dr. Watts reminded us that “whether we move from climate change as a threat to an opportunity is not a technological or economic question anymore but it is entirely political”. The time to act is now!