The Lancet Countdown 2023 Report is out, here is CSH’s take on it
What is needed today to enable a future where present and future generations can thrive?
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is an international research collaboration that independently monitors the evolving effects of climate change on health while analysing the growing health benefits of climate action. In its 8th annual report, the Lancet Countdown sheds light on some of the most concerning and interconnected factors threatening the well-being of individuals, public health, and healthcare systems on a global scale.
More than a hundred scientists and health practitioners from various research institutes and UN organisations throughout the world contributed to the 2023 edition. This year's report examines the relationship between health and climate change across five key categories and 47 indicators, giving the most up-to-date and comprehensive assessment of the state of our planetary and collective health.
Key messages from the 2023 Lancet Countdown Report
Energy, fossil fuel, and the state of our global health
« The strategies of the world’s 20 largest oil and gas companies as of early 2023 will result in emissions surpassing levels consistent with Paris Agreement goals by 173% by 2040 up from 112% in 2022 » - Lancet Countdown 2023
- Cutting fossil fuels investments is crucial to supporting a healthy future.
- Transitioning to clean and equitable zero-emission energy must be enabled through financial schemes to be effective.
- Addressing energy poverty and ensuring equity in energy distribution means empowering countries and local communities by supporting access to decentralised energy sources.
- Prioritising health-centered urban design should be on every planning agenda to promote safe active travel, reduce air pollution and GHG emissions from buildings and transportation, and boost cities' resilience to climate threats.
- Climate talks must promote a rapid and sustainable shift away from fossil fuels, accelerate mitigation, and improve support for health adaption to truly preserve health.
« The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change reveals the growing health harms of climate change, and the imperative for a health-centred response in a world facing irreversible harms. »
The impact of climate change on our health
The 2023 Lancet Countdown Report reveals that the health impacts of climate change are surging worldwide, causing a devastating toll on lives and livelihoods.
« The health risks of climate change are increasing across all dimensions monitored. Yet, adaptation efforts have been insufficient to protect people from the growing hazards, and global health inequalities are growing» - Lancet Countdown 2023
- Health-related deaths of adults over 65 years of age and infants under one year old, who are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, increased by 85% from 2000-2004. More than twice the expected number if temperatures had stayed the same.
- Higher frequency of extreme weather events increased water insecurity and food scarcity, putting millions of people at risk of malnutrition
- This changing climate is accelerating the spread of life-threatening infectious diseases and worsening global health inequities.
- Health systems are increasingly strained, and 27% of surveyed cities declared concerns over their health systems being overwhelmed by the impacts of climate change.
- Only 70% of countries reported a high level of implementation of health emergency capacities.
A clear statement from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the climate crisis is a health crisis and we must work towards supporting life saving actions.
A clear statement from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that "the climate crisis is a health crisis" and a reminder that the new projections shown in the report are just an early glimpse into an increasingly dangerous future. Urgent efforts are needed to ensure climate health hazards don’t exceed the capacity of our health-supportive systems to protect us.
The positive points?
Climate-related health action is critical today and could provide immediate health benefits. Some indicators point us towards the right direction:
- Deaths attributable to fossil fuel-derived air pollution have decreased by 17.7% since 2005. 80% of this reduction results from reduced coal-derived pollution.
- Scientific evidence is growing, with three times as many scientific papers investigating the links between health and climate change in 2022 compared to 2012.
- International organisations are increasingly engaging with the health co-benefits of mitigation.
11 priorities outlined by the authors to help maximise the benefits of climate change action to people’s health and wellbeing
As the report emphasises, "the world is heading in the wrong direction", continuing to rely on fossil fuels while leaving the most vulnerable populations behind in the critical transition to sustainable energy sources. The severity of today's health issues is obvious. Yet, it serves as a forewarning of the dangers for our future and a reminder of the commitment we collectively must take in delivering such ambition and transformative climate action. What is needed today to enable a future where present and future generations can thrive, is a global consensus on putting people and their health at the centre of all policies.
Quote from Rt. Hon. Helen Clark for the launch of the Lancet Countdown 2023 Report - The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change (@LancetCountdown)
The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare fully supports the Lancet Countdown Report's call to action. It is critical that we strengthen climate resilience while advocating for a just transition to low-carbon and sustainable pathways across all sectors, including healthcare.
To address the climate and health emergency, a holistic, health-centered approach is required. Focusing on delivering climate action centred on healthcare and wellbeing is critical if we want to save lives and leave a healthy, thriving planet for future generations. Sustainability must be at the core of any strategy moving forward as only this principle highlights how important the environment is to health and upholds the human rights to health, clean environment, and safe livelihood.
The conclusion that anyone can draw from the 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change is clear: we must act now.
This year’s Lancet Countdown report was launched just weeks before COP28. The findings highlight the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that COP might assist in delivering through commitments and action as it has chosen to host a Health Day for the first time since its inception. We must seize this opportunity to collectively advocate for and work towards climate-resilient health for all.
Are you a healthcare professional concerned about the planetary health emergency?
- Join one of our short courses in sustainability, health and healthcare to learn how to apply theory to practice in your setting.
- Connect with others interested in sharing ideas and resources about sustainable healthcare in our Networks Hub.
- Learn about the Sustainability in Quality Improvement framework (SusQI), an approach to holistically improving healthcare, by assessing quality and value through the lens of a “triple bottom line”.
- Read about climate change adaptation, and what your role may be as health and care professionals.
- Explore the evidence base on green space for health.