With the global pandemic still in the spotlight, more than 200 leading health journals say climate change is an even more urgent threat.



The editors of more than 200 leading medical journals have released an unprecedented statement. They say the biggest threat to public health is climate change, not the pandemic. The editorial says rising temperatures could cause, quote, "catastrophic harm to health that will be impossible to reverse." Together, they are calling on world leaders to take immediate action. NPR's Lauren Sommer has more.

LAUREN SOMMER, BYLINE: Hurricane Ida hit hard, but most of the deaths in Louisiana caused by the storm had nothing to do with wind and rain. Several had to do with...


CYNTHIA LEE SHENG: Generator safety...

SOMMER: With the power out, many are using generators. A week after the storm, Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng held a public briefing.


LEE SHENG: The tragedy that we have had is that we have had more deaths post-storm 'cause of improper use of generator use and carbon monoxide poisoning.

SOMMER: It's an example of how days after the storm hit, the most vulnerable are still at risk. The parish has also been transporting residents around who need dialysis and other medical care.

ERIC RUBIN: What people don't get is the impact that it has on health and on public health.

SOMMER: Dr. Eric Rubin is the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. He says public health officials see the effects of climate change every day. Wildfire smoke sends people to the ER. Heat waves are getting hotter and more frequent. They can each cause hundreds of deaths.

RUBIN: The pandemic is awful, but it is something that we have the tools to control. Climate change may be the biggest threat out there to health, to public health, to our ways of life.

SOMMER: Rubin joined the editors of more than 200 other medical journals in an editorial that's calling on wealthier nations to make bigger cuts in emissions.

RUBIN: There are things we could do, and we should be doing them right now. So I'd like this to be more of a call to action than an obituary on our planet.

SOMMER: Scientists say the world is currently not on track to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. World leaders will be gathering in November for the next round of climate talks.

Lauren Sommer, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.