Climate change already damaging the health of millions

A new report reveals the various ways in which climate change is already affecting the health of people across the planet.

The Lancet Countdown aims to track progress against climate goals agreed at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit.

The report, which is funded through Wellcome’s Our Planet, Our Health programme, highlights major health impacts that are already affecting millions of people. These impacts are disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable communities who are least responsible for climate change.

How climate change is threatening health

  • an extra 125 million medically vulnerable adults were exposed to heatwaves globally between 2000 and 2016
  • 87% of cities globally are in breach of WHO air pollution guidelines – there were 803,000 premature and avoidable deaths in 2015 across 21 Asian countries.
  • the Aedes aegypti mosquito population’s capacity to transmit dengue fever has increased by 9.4% since 1950, and the number of dengue fever cases has doubled every decade
  • over 1 billion people globally will need to migrate within 90 years because of rising sea levels caused by melting ice shelves

The report does note that over the past five years there has been an accelerated response to climate change. Numerous countries have made commitments to phase out coal power and there is a significant shift towards electric vehicles.

Saskia Heijnen, from Wellcome’s Our Planet, Our Health team, says: "This report highlights that the wide-ranging impacts of climate change are already being felt today – whether that’s air pollution causing thousands of premature deaths, or a reduction in crop production due to rising temperatures.

"There is clear momentum and drive to tackle these issues, but unless we rapidly increase the pace of change we risk significant and irreversible damage to the health of people and the planet."

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