Lancet Countdown 2021 report calls for urgent global action to tackle the health impacts of climate change

The health impacts of climate change are getting worse, exposing communities around the world to greater risks of food and water insecurity, heatwaves and the spread of infectious diseases, according to a new report by the Lancet Countdown.

The Lancet Countdown is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of leading researchers from 43 academic institutions and United Nations agencies that independently monitors the health consequences of a changing climate and publishes its findings in an annual report.

The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future was launched at a virtual event held on 21 October 2021. The report tracks 44 indicators of health impacts that are directly linked to climate change, across five key thematic groups:

  • 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.

The report notes that key trends are getting worse across every indicator, affecting people in all corners of the world.

For example, the potential for outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika is increasing most rapidly in countries with a very high human development index, including European countries.

Suitability for malaria infections is increasing in cooler highland areas of countries with a low human development index.

Coasts around northern Europe and the United States of America are becoming more conducive to bacteria which produce gastroenteritis, severe wound infections and sepsis. In resource-limited countries, the same dynamic is putting decades of progress towards controlling or eliminating these diseases at risk.

The report also notes that there are 569.6 million people living less than five metres above current sea levels, who could face rising risks of increased flooding, more intense storms, and soil and water salinification. Many of these people could be forced to permanently leave these areas and migrate further inland.

In light of these and other growing climate-related risks, the authors of the report call for urgent, globally coordinated action to mitigate climate change and build a healthier, sustainable future for all.

Among the report’s co-authors is Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich on joint appointment at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Visit the Lancet Countdown 2021 website to read the thematic summaries and key findings of the report.

Access the full-text Lancet Countdown 2021 report and related articles and resources on the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change website.

Photo credit: Fishing quarter in Maputo, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)