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Lancet Countdown 2022: ‘Health at the mercy of fossil fuels’

health and climate change lancet report

Climate Kahani | Lancet countdown report 2022: All countries and their health systems were recovering from the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic when the conflict between Russia and Ukraine created a global energy crisis. And with all this, climate change is increasing at an unabated pace.

According to the 2022 report of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, reliance on fossil fuels is exacerbating the health effects of these crises.

Responding to the report, Dr Marina Romanello, Executive Director of The Lancet Countdown at University College London, said: “Our report this year shows that we are at a turning point. We are seeing that the world’s dependence on fossil fuels is adding to all the health crises.”

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Lancet countdown report 2022

This seventh Lancet countdown report is the result of the work of 99 experts from 51 institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and is led by University College London. This report, published just before COP27, presents 43 indicators that show new and improved dimensions of the whole situation.

“Despite the challenges, there is clear evidence that immediate action in the fields of clean energy and energy efficiency can still save millions of lives. Governments and companies around the world have the power to approach these crises by making the right decisions. There is an opportunity to deliver a healthier and safer future,” says Dr. Romanello.

Climate change amplifying the effects of many health crises

The ever-increasing dependence on fossil fuels is accelerating the pace of climate change. The dangerous health effects are being felt by people around the world.

Statistics show that no country is safe. Climate change increases the likelihood and severity of extreme weather events. Heatwaves, heavy rainfall, wildfires, hurricanes and droughts kill hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year.

“Our health system is the first shield to respond to the physical and mental health effects of extreme weather events and other effects of a changing climate. But health systems are already struggling to cope with the burden of disruptions and challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only our today, but our future is also at risk.

Professor Christie Abbey, Lancet Countdown Working Group Lead on Adaptation

“Climate change is already having a negative impact on food security. Is. Further increases in temperature, frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and carbon dioxide concentrations will put more pressure on the availability of nutritious food for the most vulnerable.”

Professor Elizabeth Robinson, Director of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics

Affect on work and wealth

Health is directly affected by exposure to extreme heat. Due to this, people’s ability to work and exercise is limited and it also affects health indirectly.

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The heat caused the loss of approximately 470 billion hours of labor globally in 2021, causing the loss of the same proportion of countries’ GDP and people’s earnings.

Spread of infectious diseases

The changing climate is also affecting the spread of infectious diseases. The appropriate time for malaria transmission in the high reaches of the Americas increased by 32.1% and in Africa by 14.9% in 2012–2021 compared to 1951–1960.

The influence of climate on the risk of dengue transmission on a global scale increased by 12% over the same period.

Along with the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of infectious disease due to climate change has led to misdiagnosis, pressure on health systems, and difficulties in managing simultaneous disease outbreaks.

Dependence on fossil fuels

Recent indicators show that governments and companies continue to prioritize fossil fuels despite the serious and complex health damages of climate change.

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Global crises cannot be addressed in isolation, but require an integrated united approach to create equitable solutions for all.

“The current strategies of many governments and companies will imprison the world in a warmer future . These strategies are forcing us to use fossil fuels and rapidly reducing the prospects for a habitable world.”

Professor Paul Eakins, Lancet Countdown Working Group Lead on Economics and Finance

Something positive

Some signs of hope and a direction of action are clear from the figures in this year’s report. Although total clean energy generation remains insufficient, it reached a record high in 2020, and zero-carbon sources contributed 80% of investment in electricity generation methods in 2021. For the first time, direct and indirect employment in renewable energy exceeded direct employment in fossil fuels.

Also, public engagement with the health aspects of climate change is at an all-time high. Media coverage of health and climate change has increased by 27% from 2020 to 2021 and engagement with world leaders has increased, with 60% of countries drawing attention to climate change and health at the UN General Debate in 2021.

Responding to the report publication, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres says, “The climate crisis is killing us. It is undermining not only the health of our planet, but the health of people everywhere through toxic air pollution, dwindling food security, high risk of infectious disease outbreaks, extreme heat, drought, floods and much more.”

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  • Pallav Jain is co-founder of Ground Report and an independent journalist and visual storyteller based in Madhya Pradesh. He did his PG Diploma in Radio and TV journalism from IIMC 2015-16.

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