The triple planetary crisis, three interconnected crises ‒ climate change, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss‒ are putting global health and well-being at risk. They undermine opportunities to reduce poverty, ensure intra- and inter-generational equity and improve lives, and they complicate the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and the prevention of another infectious disease pandemic. Vulnerable populations and areas with already weak health infrastructure are at most risk, often without the capacity to prepare and respond to the impact of these interconnected crisis.
Acknowledgement of the health–environment nexus, our scientific understanding of the crises and the common urgency to act upon them are growing. But the relationship between health, climate change, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss is complex, and there is an urgent need to understand these complexities to create policies of mitigation and adaption to their direct and indirect relations. Over 4 million people die prematurely each year from outdoor air pollution. Two-third of which can be attributed to the burning of fossil fuels, a direct driver of climate change. The energy sector is responsible for almost three-quarters of the emissions that have already pushed global average temperatures 1.1 °C higher since the pre-industrial age , highlighting the energy sector’s place at the core of sustainable change, finding new solutions while balancing the rise in demand with a growing global population.
At high levels, leaders have signalled an interest in shifting global activities toward more integrated and inter-disciplinary work at the climate, biodiversity and health nexus. However, to address the triple crisis with their interactions with and implications for health we need systemic change, swift actions and innovative solutions from all sectors and all levels of society.
A holistic approach to planetary and human wellbeing is provided by Kate Raworth's "Doughnut Economics" model. Raworth’s model builds on Rockström’s planetary boundaries by combining social and planetary boundaries, taking a systematic approach for future sustainability for human and planetary health, questioning the need for traditional economic growth to re-focus on more sustainable policies for all. According to the doughnut economic model the environmentally safe and socially just space in which humanity can thrive lays between social and planetary boundaries. In addition, the world is home to the largest generation of youth in history whose future is increasingly uncertain. We must ensure that they are given the opportunity to actively participate in decision-making processes and to hold decision makers accountable.
The World We Want: What does an environmentally safe and socially just space for humanity look like? How can the health sector strengthen the social foundation and at the same time reinforce the ecological ceiling to create/nurture an environmentally safe and socially just space for humanity?
1International Energy Agency (2021) World Energy Outlook 2021. https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-outlook-2021
2 Raworth, K. (2017). A Doughnut for the Anthropocene: humanity's compass in the 21st century. The lancet planetary health, 1(2), e48-e49.
3 Rockström et.al. (2009) Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and society, Vol.14, Issue
4Steffen et.al. (2015) Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, Vol 347,Issue 6223