It was a clear fall day, and I was driving along Interstate 95 with my then-5-year-old son in the back seat. We were passing a particularly industrial stretch of the highway when he asked if what he saw coming out of the smokestacks made God cough.
The truth was that the smoke was steam, but I marveled at the connection my son had just made between the health of people and the health of the planet. I answered, "It might rabbit, it might."
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared climate change to be one of the greatest threats to global health in the 21st century. The organization estimates that one in four premature deaths worldwide are caused by environmental factors, and 3 million deaths each year are linked to exposure to air pollution.
Connecting the Dots Between Human and Environmental Health
As a company that began its formal energy program more than 30 years ago, Johnson & Johnson has long understood that the health of people depends on the health of the planet.
That’s why we are thrilled to announce our support for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group—a network of the world's 90 megacities that want to help improve the health of the globe—with a commitment of $1 million over two years to help fund programs that will link climate action with the benefits to air quality and human health.
Together with C40, we aim to drive positive climate programs on a grand scale, helping to deliver 14,000 actions over the next four years—actions that the C40 Deadline 2020 report says are necessary to help meet the Paris Agreement commitments.
Positive change at the scale we need is a team effort, requiring people, companies and governments to work together to care for the planet like our health depends on it.
And we believe that connecting human health, air quality and climate change will unlock mainstream behavior and policy change at the pace and scale we need.
So why the focus on cities? For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population now lives in metropolitan areas—and that number is expected to rise to nearly 70% by 2050.
And according to the WHO, more than 80% of urban residents are exposed to unsafe air, a number that rises to 98% in low- and middle-income countries. Cities are also estimated to contribute more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, making them the perfect nexus for climate actions that can improve air quality and human health outcomes at scale.
At Johnson & Johnson, we've been building the case for positive climate action for decades.
The actions that we have taken have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs by about 20% over the past 10 years. We have also increased our use of renewable electricity to nearly 25% by building renewable energy systems on our properties globally, and buying wind power in the U.S.
As the world's largest, most broadly-based healthcare company, we also understand that we can share our voice and experience to create change beyond our four walls. C40 represents more than 650 million people and one-quarter of the global economy.
This partnership will put us firmly on the front lines of a collaborative effort that has the potential to drastically improve the trajectory of climate change and human health.
Positive change at the scale we need is a team effort, requiring people, companies and governments to work together to care for the planet like our health depends on it. Because, frankly, it does.