Climate change should be on parallel with the COVID-19 pandemic and be declared a public health emergency.
Irish Doctors for the Environment Committee Member Dr Ola Nordrum was speaking as the group called for more action on the climate crisis.
"We need to step up and start acting like we are in a crisis," the group said.
"We call on the Irish Government to declare the climate crisis and biodiversity crisis a public health emergency."
Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity.
We need to step up and start acting like we are in a crisis.
We call on the Irish government to declare the #ClimateCrisis and #BiodiversityCrisis a public health emergency! pic.twitter.com/WzSV0Htc10
— Irish Doctors for the Environment (@IrishDocsEnv) August 16, 2023
Dr Nordrum told Newstalk Breakfast the effects of climate change are not in the distant future.
"Climate change and the biodiversity crisis is the biggest health threat facing humanity in the 21st century - that comes from the WHO," he said.
"We have a massive health crisis that is looming on the horizon, and the second aspect of it is that Ireland isn't doing enough to reduce their emissions.
"In a time when we rapidly need to reduce our emissions, they only dropped by 1.9% last year, and our transport emissions shot up."
'What do we need to do now?'
Dr Nordrum said declaring an emergency would see more action being taken.
"You can draw some parallels to the COVID epidemic and what happened there," he said.
"You actually had emergency measures put in place, and we had daily or weekly updates from the Governemnt.
"What are we doing, what do we need to do now to urgently stop this?
"Simple, rapid things that could be done would be to rapidly get cycle lanes going - have them temporary, and then we put them permanent later on.
"You could do quick things like reducing tax on vegetables and fruit to get people to eat more fruit and vegetables.
"It's all these things that we need to be addressing now - all these plans for getting public transport improved by 2030 isn't going to do enough to reduce emissions quickly enough.
"It's also not going to do anything about the things we're seeing already in Ireland, say air pollution and that type of thing".
'This is going to affect their health'
Dr Nordrum has said waiting is not an option, as the Government is already missing targets.
"If we're going to reach our legally binding targets by 2025/2030, we need to start reducing emissions by 12%/13% a year.
"At this juncture that's not going to be possible, so we need to do more, and we need to up the ante.
"We think this is a really important step to get the public to realise that this is happening now, this is going to affect their health.
"We all need to actually make changes today and tomorrow: it's not enough to have these small changes happening in the background; we actually need to all make changes to our lives.
"Our political leaders need to be in front of that," he added.
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