'No country – whether rich or poor – is immune from the health impacts of worsening climate change' - report

03 December 2020

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The authors of a new report say that unless urgent action is taken, climate change will increasingly threaten global health, disrupt lives and livelihoods, and overwhelm healthcare systems.

The 2020 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, published in The Lancet, calls for a joint response to the converging climate and Covid-19 crises, to improve public health, create a sustainable economy, and protect the environment. It says heatwave-exposure, wildfires, tropical storms, sea level rise and increased prevalence of disease due to rising temperatures are leading to fast-rising mortality worldwide and threatening the livelihoods of millions.

Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food was one of the report's authors, contributing to its dietary health analysis. With livestock being particularly emissions-intensive, the report examined deaths from excess red meat consumption. The authors found that mortality has risen 70% over the last 30 years, with the majority of the now almost 1 million annual deaths occurring in the regions of the Western Pacific and Europe. Excess red meat eating accounted for more than 12,270 deaths in the UK in 2017 out of a total of nearly 116,000 deaths attributable to diet-related risk factors.

"The pandemic has shown us that when health is threatened on a global scale, our economies and ways of life can come to a standstill,” says Dr Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown. “The threats to human health are multiplying and intensifying due to climate change, and unless we change course our healthcare systems are at risk of being overwhelmed in the future.This year’s devastating US wildfires and tropical storms in the Caribbean and Pacific, coinciding with the pandemic, have tragically illustrated that the world doesn’t have the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time.”