Building on its continuing success in the United States, the Nurses Climate Challenge has now come to Europe. The Challenge aims to mobilise nurses across the continent to educate health professionals on the impacts of climate change on human health.
By providing the necessary resources and networking opportunities, our goal is to create a movement of health professionals across Europe who want to take action to protect the health of their patients and communities from the worst impacts of climate change.
Climate change is already damaging human health and will have a greater impact in the future. These health effects include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.
The healthcare sector is at the frontline of climate change, bearing the costs of increased disease prevalence and more frequent extreme weather events. At the same time, the sector is also a significant contributor to climate change, making up 4.4% of global net greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union is the third largest contributor to global healthcare emissions (behind the US and China), accounting for 12% of global emissions. If we take action now, we can help prevent the worst effects of climate change and simultaneously improve health outcomes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to make the healthcare sector more resilient. There are several common causes, synergistic impacts and shared solutions to both climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
By making health systems more resilient to climate change, we are also improving their ability to combat and prepare for future pandemics. We can therefore protect the healthcare sector by taking climate action now.
As one of the most trusted professions (and making up 50% of the healthcare workforce worldwide), nurses play a vital role in educating healthcare professionals about climate solutions.