Eight years ago, the medical journal the Lancet began compiling the latest research on how climate change affects human health. It was the first coordinated effort to highlight scientific findings on the health consequences of climate change, published in the hopes of making the topic more central to global climate negotiations. The Lancet’s annual reports on this topic, which summarize research conducted by dozens of scientists from leading institutions around the world, have become increasingly dire in tone.
On Tuesday, the journal published its most damning installment yet. Drawing on research published in 2022 and preliminary data on record-breaking heatwaves and floods in 2023, the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change warns of “irreversible harms” due to limited success mitigating the sources of global warming, primarily fossil fuel combustion. “The rising risks of climate change,” the report says, are “threatening the very foundations of human health.”
In a press briefing call last week, experts said the health impacts associated with extreme heat and food insecurity spurred by drought and flooding were among the most concerning developments documented in the new report. Annual heat-related deaths between 2013 and 2022 were 85 percent higher than in the period between 1991 and 2000 — more than double the increase that would have occurred in the absence of man-made warming. The global land area affected by drought between 1951 and 1960 — 18 percent — increased to 47 percent between 2013 and 2022. The confluence of climate-driven heat and drought have put 127 million people at risk of moderate or severe food insecurity. Marina Romanello, the executive director of the Lancet Countdown, called this finding on food insecurity one of the “most shocking” outcomes of this year’s report. [Continue reading…]