2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change
The life of every child born today will be profoundly affected by climate change, with populations around the world increasingly facing extremes of weather, food and water insecurity, changing patterns of infectious disease, and a less certain future. Without accelerated intervention, this new era will come to define the health of people at every stage of their lives.
'Children are particularly vulnerable to the health risks of a changing climate. Their bodies and immune systems are still developing, leaving them more susceptible to disease and environmental pollutants,' says Nick Watts, executive director of The Lancet Countdown. 'The damage done in early childhood is persistent and pervasive, with health consequences lasting for a lifetime. Without immediate action from all countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions, gains in wellbeing and life expectancy will be compromised, and climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation.'
A second path – which limits the global average temperature rise to 'well below 2ºC' – is possible, and would transform the health of a child born today for the better, throughout their lives. Placing health at the centre of the coming transition will yield enormous dividends for the public and the economy, with cleaner air, safer cities, and healthier diets.
However, the United Nations warns that we are on the brink of missing the opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5°C:
If we rely only on the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, temperatures can be expected to rise to 3.2°C this century. Temperatures have already increased 1.1°C, leaving families, homes and communities devastated.
We need to close the ‘commitment’ gap between what we say we will do and what we need to do to prevent dangerous levels of climate change. Governments cannot afford to wait. People and families cannot afford to wait. Economies must shift to a decarbonization pathway now.
Bold new approaches to policy making, research and business are needed in order to change course. An unprecedented challenge demands an unprecedented response. It will take the work of the 7.5 billion people currently alive to ensure that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate.
The Lancet Countdown authors call for bold action to turn the tide on the enormous health impact of climate change in four key areas:
- Delivering rapid, urgent, and complete phase-out of coal-fired power worldwide.
- Ensuring high-income countries meet international climate finance commitments of USD100 billion a year by 2020 to help low-income countries.
- Increasing accessible, affordable, efficient public and active transport systems, particularly walking and cycling, such as the creation of cycle lanes and cycle hire or purchase schemes.
- Making major investments in health system adaptation to ensure health damage of climate change doesn’t overwhelm the capacity of emergency and health services to treat patients.
Director general, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
We are delighted that ILRI was able to help The Lancet Countdown in its vital work of advancing the discussion on climate change. It is especially gratifying that ILRI is at the forefront of efforts to find solutions for the livestock sector under climate change that incorporate the perspectives and well-being of people in the developing world
Co-Leader Animal & Human Health, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
We are not seeing the sort of change that we need, and I’m concerned that children in Africa will suffer as a result.
Scientist, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)
Past and current economic activities in the West are likely to affect Africa’s future for decades to come. We cannot afford to wait on the sidelines for the right decisions to be made; we must lend our voices to those calling for urgent action now.
Executive director, Lancet Countdown
With its high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and food insecurity, the health effects of climate change are going to be felt strongly across Africa. Dengue and Malaria will spread into new areas, a more hostile climate will continue to threaten food security, and without immediate action, climate change will come to define the health of an entire generation.