The latest Lancet Countdown report 2022 claims that continued reliance on fossil fuels is intensifying the health effects of the world’s multiple crises – the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war, climate change. This report comes ahead of this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP27), to be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

 

Background

  • Climate change is the most serious global health threat the world faces in the 21st century, but it is also the greatest opportunity to rethink the social and environmental determinants of health.
  • As part of the landmark Paris Agreement to limit the harm caused by climate change, countries committed to limiting global warming to “well below 2°C” in 2015.
    • The Paris Agreement is a global treaty in which more than 200 countries pledged to work together to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and slow climate change.
    • The accord aims to keep global warming far below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, when compared to pre-industry levels.

 

About the report

  • Published annually, the Lancet Countdown report was established following the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change.
  • The report is published by The Lancet, following independent peer review.
    • The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed world’s highest-impact general medical journal, and one of the oldest (founded in England in 1823).
  • It is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration (including UN agencies – WHO, WMO, WB, etc.), dedicated to monitoring the evolving health profile of climate change.
  • It provides an independent assessment of the delivery of commitments made by governments worldwide under the Paris Agreement.
  • It tracks 43 indicators across five key domains: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability; adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance and public and political engagement.

 

Highlights of the report

  • The report shows that the adverse impact of climate change is multi-dimensional.
  • Heat-related deaths increased 68% globally between 2017-21, reaching 3,10,000 deaths per year. The death toll was significantly increased by the Covid-19 pandemic’s confluence.
      • In India, the number of heat-related deaths among those over 65 increased by 55% between 2000-04 and 2017-21 from an average of about 20,000 deaths per year to around 31,000 fatalities annually.
  • The report also highlighted how subsidies to fossil fuel consumption in many countries are causing global problems, including deterioration of air quality, decline in food output and increased risk of infectious disease linked to higher carbon emissions.
      • In 2021, 80% of the countries reviewed provided some form of fossil fuel subsidy, totalling $400 billion.
      • In 2019, India spent a net $34 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, accounting for 5% of total national health spending.
      • According to the report, over 3,30,000 people died in India in 2020 as a result of exposure to fossil fuel pollutants.
  • The report also examined the effects of rising temperatures and extreme heat on infants (under 1 year old).
      • Such vulnerable groups in India experienced 72 million more person-days of heatwaves per year from 2012 to 21 compared to 1985 to 2005.
      • Adults over the age of 65 in India experienced 301 million more person-days during the same time period.
  • As countries prepare for the COP27, the report has urged them to develop climate solutions that are proportionate to the scale of the problem.
      • The climate crisis is endangering not only the health of the planet, but also the health of people everywhere, through toxic air pollution, decreased food security, increased risks of infectious disease outbreaks, extreme heat, drought, floods, etc.
      • Therefore, the report reaffirms why governments should pay more attention to and invest more resources in environmental protection.