Article image

Urgent climate action could save and improve millions of lives

Researchers at institutions all over the world have collaborated to track the impacts of climate change on human health. In a comprehensive report, the experts reveal that millions of lives can be saved and improved with urgent climate action. 

Without urgent action, however, we can expect an increasingly hotter world that threatens global health, disrupts lives, and overwhelms healthcare systems, warn the study authors. 

Brittany Shea is the project director of the Global Consortium on Climate & Health Education at the Mailman School of Public Health.

“Whether it’s the spread of viruses and infectious diseases, heat exposure, or wildfires, the 2020 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change U.S. Policy Brief shows how climate change makes communities and health care systems more vulnerable,” said Shea. “The Brief lays out how climate action across sectors will lead to major environmental and public health gains.”

The researchers investigated the potential impacts of converging climate crises across 41 key indicators. These indicators are organized into five categories: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and public and political engagement.

“An important aspect of public health involves ensuring food security following a climate change induced extreme event. Here we look for common occurrences, problems and potential solutions that can be used as recommendations to ensure that no one goes hungry following a hurricane, flood or intense windstorm. But more needs to be done,” explained study co-author Dr. Lewis Ziska.

According to Dr. Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, this year’s report from the Lancet is the latest warning that the United States is going in the wrong direction on climate action and human health. 

“But it’s not too late to change course,” said Dr. Knowlton. “The incoming Biden/Harris administration should seize this opportunity to embrace the knowledge, expertise, and passion of the American public health and healthcare community. Together, we can build back a healthier, more equitable, and climate-resilient nation.”

The study is published in the journal The Lancet.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day