Scientists react to the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change report.
Prof Andrew Haines, Professor of Environmental Change & Public Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“This year’s Lancet Countdown report adds to growing evidence on the health impacts of climate change and highlights the urgent need for action on adaptation and mitigation to protect our shared health. We now need to examine in detail which climate mitigation actions across different sectors, and in different regions, could bring major benefits for health. A comprehensive analysis of potential health benefits is essential if we are to convince policymakers of the health opportunities of climate mitigation action, not just the health penalties of inaction. This in-depth analysis will be provided by an upcoming report from The Lancet Pathfinder Commission.”
Dr Raquel Nunes, Assistant Professor in Environmental Change and Public Health at the University of Warwick, said:
“The report emphasizes the urgent need for global action to achieve net zero-carbon emissions as a crucial step in mitigating the catastrophic health impacts of climate change. The addition of information on net zero-carbon and heatwaves reinforces the urgency of addressing climate change for health benefits. The mention of the increased frequency, duration and intensity of heatwaves, especially affecting vulnerable individuals and communities, underscores the immediate health threats posed by climate change. The breakdown of health hazards, exposures, and impacts related to heat, extreme weather events, and the implications for physical activity, labour capacity, and mortality provides a detailed and evidence-based overview. The inclusion of a panel (Panel 5) on early-warning systems for heatwaves emphasizes the practical steps needed to protect people’s health in the face of a warming climate. Overall, the information contributes to a comprehensive understanding of the real-world implications of climate change on health and reinforces the call for urgent and transformative action.”
Professor Dann Mitchell, Chair in Climate Hazards at the University of Bristol, said:
“The report highlights the significant health burden that has already occurred in every region of the globe, and is driven by changes in our climate and weather. It shows that it is the developing world that has seen, and will continue to see, by far the lion’s share of poor health outcomes from extreme weather and climate change. Some of these are coming from changes in demographics, including an aging population, but do we really want to load the dice of our extreme weather to exacerbate that? The report backs up the well-known narrative that as our climate changes, it can push our social and economic infrastructure beyond its breaking point. But even before its breaking point, the climate-health burden is significant.
“Our health warnings from climate change are already catastrophic at the global scale, yet even when presented with the proof of the numbers of deaths, size of the exposure of vulnerable communities, and far-reaching impacts of mental and physical health, we have not managed to convince the world’s governments to cut carbon emissions enough to avoid the first Paris Agreement goal of 1.5C, which we will now almost certainly pass within the next decade.”
Dr Chloe Brimicombe, Climate Scientist and Extreme Heat Researcher at the University of Graz, said:
“This Lancet Countdown report uses science to show that climate change negatively impacts different aspects of our health and that currently policies pose a risk to us living healthy lives. This is potent given the likelihood of 2023 to be the hottest year on record and the increasing impact of extremes.
“Climate change affects our health in a number of ways, whether this is extreme heat exposure causing a rise in mortality in over 65s and infants and a rise in preterm births for new mothers or changing patterns of vector-borne diseases like malaria exposure areas or crop yields and nutrients in crops or access to healthcare because of risks to services from hazards like flooding. Climate and health are interlinked with one another.
“Fundamentally, this highlights in the lead up to COP28 and for the first time a health theme at the conference. We can have win-win scenarios, a green transition and transformative change to a net-zero society, and beyond that we can have positives for our health and wellbeing but we need policy action to achieve this.
“The results in this report are as important as the IPCC reports: it has areas of focus in different aspects of society that policy can focus on, from food systems and agriculture to investment banking and mitigation options.”
‘The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change’ by Marina Romanello et al was published in The Lancet at 23:30 UK time Tuesday 14 November 2023.
Raquel Nunes: I have no conflict of interest.
Dann Mitchell: No conflicts of interest.
Chloe Brimicombe: I have no conflicts.
Andrew Haines: No competing interests.