251 medical journals warned world leaders not to wait until COVID-19 is over to address the climate crisis, calling it the 'greatest threat to global public health'

colorado wildfire
A wildfire in the mountains above Colorado Springs, which forced the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents. Gaylon Wampler/Getty Images
  • 251 medical journals published a rare joint article warning about the climate crisis.

  • The editors urged governments not to wait until COVID-19 is under control to tackle it.

  • The consequences of ignoring it could be "catastrophic" and irreversible, they wrote.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The editors of the world's top medical journals have written a joint warning to world leaders saying that they must urgently focus on the climate crisis even before COVID-19 is under control.

The article was released Sunday in 228 top journals worldwide, and endorsed by a further 23. It is the first time so many journals have made such a move, according to Axios.

The editors warned that collective governmental failure to restrict average global temperature increases to 1.5% is the world's "greatest" public health crisis - even as the world is in the grip of a pandemic.

"Many governments met the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented funding. The environmental crisis demands a similar emergency response," the editors wrote, adding that they believed wealthy countries should contribute more.

Current emissions targets are not enough, they wrote, saying the planet is on course to see an average temperature increase of 2% - which could "lock the world into an acutely unstable state," they wrote.

Aerial view of Germany flooding
An aerial view of Erftstadt-Blessem, Germany, on July 16, 2021 after severe flooding. Rhein-Erft-Kreis/Reuters

The consequences, they said, include a lowered global food yield, resource wars, more extreme weather, forced displacements, more zoonotic diseases, as well as numerous health problems associated with living in higher temperatures.

A barrage of recent extreme weather events has highlighted the urgency of the message, as Insider's Aria Bendix reported.

In a single week in July alone, wildfires and flooding struck countries on four continents at once, and most recently Hurricane Ida has seen 60 deaths in Louisiana.

The letter comes ahead of the UN General Assembly in September, a global biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, set for October, and the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.

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