Climate change already affecting global health according to international tracker
Release Date 02 November 2017
Climate change is already having an impact on health, labour productivity, the spread of infectious disease and exposure to air pollution and heatwaves, and is affecting countries across the world according to the first report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.
While there is some evidence of early adaptation and mitigation strategies being implemented, the authors have warned that further progress is urgently needed.
Professor Elizabeth Robinson, an Environmental Economist from the University of Reading has been working on the Lancet Countdown, a research collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organisations including the World Health Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation, which is dedicated to tracking and analysing the relationships between human health and climate change.
Prof Robinson, who works in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development has been coordinating one of the working groups. She said: “Working with doctors and public health practitioners has allowed me to bring my knowledge and expertise in agriculture and food security to one of the key challenges for the 21st century. We are tracking key climate hazards, the exposure and vulnerability of populations to these hazards, and the health impacts.
“One area that starkly demonstrates the link between climate change and health is that the number of vulnerable people exposed to heatwave events has increased by around 125 million since 2000. This reflects a combination of an increasing number and length of heatwaves globally, and growing populations living in areas where heatwaves are most prevalent.
...the ability of countries and communities to adapt their way out of climate change crises could be reached soon.
“In addition, countries where populations are suffering most from under-nutrition, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, are highly dependent on regional food production, and it is these regions where climate change is predicted to have the greatest negative impact on crop yields.
“So far, accelerated efforts to reduce poverty and build sustainable development have helped minimise the negative health impacts of climate change. However, the ability of countries and communities to adapt their way out of climate change crises could be reached soon.”
Greatest Global Health Opportunity
In 2015, the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change concluded that anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the last 50 years of gains in public health. It also showed how a comprehensive response to climate change offers “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
In the latest report, the authors note considerable scope for optimism: identifying and tracking areas in which climate change is being tackled head-on in ways which may have substantial health benefits.
Professor Robinson continues:
“Governments that address the causes of air pollution reap significant public health benefits at a country level, and contribute climate co-benefits at a global level. Individuals choosing to walk and cycle, or to eat less meat, benefit their own health and the health of the planet.
“There are many such examples of health climate win-wins, from individual initiatives through to global cooperation, that make sense from many angles, and this provides me with optimism, enthusiasm, and energy to continue working in this area and contributing to the next Lancet Countdown report.”
"We must do better"
Christiana Figueres, Chair of The Lancet Countdown’s High-Level Advisory Board and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said:
“The Lancet Countdown’s report lays bare the impact that climate change is having on our health today. It also shows that tackling climate change directly, unequivocally and immediately improves global health. It’s as simple as that. Most countries did not embrace these opportunities when they developed their climate plans for the Paris Agreement.
“We must do better. When a doctor tells us we need to take better care of our health we pay attention and it’s important that governments do the same.”
Full details about the Lancet Countdown, and a copy of the first report, are available at: