The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change highlights how the health of humanity is at grave risk.
The 2023 report of the ‘Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: the imperative for a health-centred response in a world facing irreversible harms’, released earlier this week, provides a disturbing glimpse of what could lie ahead in a heating world. New data reveal the catastrophic threat to the health and survival of billions of people all over the world from any further delays in action to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
With the world currently on track for 2.7°C of heating by 2100, and energy-related emissions reaching a new record high in 2022, the lives of current and future generations hang in the balance, says the report. New projections outline the rapidly growing risks to population health if the 1.5°C target is missed. The report suggests that if temperatures rise by 2°C by the end of the century then yearly heat-related deaths are projected to increase by 370% by mid-century. This is a 4.7-fold increase.
Health co-benefits of climate mitigation
Published ahead of the 28th UN Conference of the Parties (COP), the report presents 47 indicators that include new and improved metrics that monitor household air pollution, financing of fossil fuels, and engagement from international organisations on the health co-benefits of climate mitigation.
The report highlights how climate inaction is costing lives and livelihoods. In 2022, individuals were, on average, exposed to 86 days of health-threatening high temperatures, of which 60% were made at least twice as likely to occur because of human-caused climate change.
New regional section of the report highlights the different and unequal experience of the health impacts of climate change, and who is benefiting from climate change adaptation and the health co-benefits of the clean energy transition so far. The report outlines the opportunity that a just energy transition offers to reduce health inequities and improve the health and wellbeing of all populations.
A call to action
The authors call out “negligence” of governments, companies, and banks who continue investing in oil and gas as the challenges and costs of adaptation soar, and the world approaches irreversible harm. They warn that without profound and swift mitigation to tackle the root causes of climate change, the health of humanity is at grave risk.
The stark findings must force urgent health-centred climate action, urges the report, to shift the global economy to a zero-carbon footing. At the same time, the focus must also be on delivering “transformative opportunities” to improve the health of world populations through improved energy access and security, cleaner air, safer drinking water, healthier diets and lifestyles, and more liveable cities.