With the world hurtling towards a 2.7°C temperature increase by 2100 and energy-related emissions reaching record highs in 2022, the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change’s 2023 report issues a stark warning. The report underscores the catastrophic threat posed to the health and survival of billions (lives at risk) due to delays in limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Dr. Marina Romanello, Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown, emphasizes the profound impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods globally. The report, involving 114 experts from 52 institutions and UN agencies, reveals that current mitigation efforts are woefully inadequate.
The 2023 Lancet Countdown report exposes the escalating health-related losses and damages globally. Record temperatures in 2023, heat-related deaths, threats to water security, and food production disruptions are among the alarming trends. The report also highlights the strain on healthcare systems, with 27% of surveyed cities expressing concerns about being overwhelmed by climate change impacts.
INCREASE IN HEAT RELATED DEATHS
New projections, outlined for the first time, predict a 370% increase in yearly heat-related deaths by mid-century if the 1.5°C target is missed. The report urges urgent and equitable action at COP28, emphasizing the opportunity to secure commitments and mitigate the looming health crisis.
Despite the urgency, the report notes a troubling trend of increasing investment and lending in fossil fuels. The carbon emissions of the global energy system reached a record 36.8 Gt in 2022, with governments incentivizing fossil fuel expansion. The finance sector’s contribution to health threats, with private banks investing $489 billion annually in fossil fuels, further hampers the transition to zero-carbon energy.
However, the report also highlights transformative opportunities. A health-centered transition to clean energy could bring immediate health benefits, reduce socioeconomic inequities, and generate jobs. Improvements in air quality, active travel promotion, and a shift to healthier, low-carbon diets could prevent millions of deaths annually.
The Lancet Countdown report concludes with a call for unprecedented global collaboration and action. UN Secretary-General António Guterres echoes the urgency, stating that only powerful and immediate action can limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C and avert the worst of climate change’s impacts on health and livelihoods. The report serves as a clarion call for a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewables to safeguard present and future generations.