With the world at a critical juncture for clean energy and climate action, leading health experts have launched a unique initiative to track the impact of climate change and fossil fuel burning on public health over the next 15 years. ‘The Lancet Countdown’ will employ the services of 16 top research institutions around the world to track climate health impacts and other related trends, such as air pollution, which is now blamed for 18,000 premature deaths every day and economic impacts totalling $225bn a year. These yearly check-ins will increase pressure on local and national leaders to do more to protect human health, and indeed we are already seeing this in action in Australia, with the former head of the World Medical Association challenging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on public health risks posed by his government’s lacklustre climate commitments and addiction to coal. It also calls into question the morality of the $24 billion G20 countries are pouring into the deadly coal industry, especially when governments are, in real terms, shelling out $5.3 trillion per year on fossil fuel companies due to the health costs associated with this harmful industry.
— we the planet (@we_the_planet) November 14, 2016
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 13, 2016
- Leading health experts have launched an unprecedented global project to track the impact of air pollution on human health for the next 15 years, putting governments on notice that their responsibility to protect public health from fossil fuels is under the microscope. Deaths from air pollution are far greater than the number of deaths due to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and the emissions from burning fossil fuels are primarily responsible for our current smog crisis. The recent ‘airpocalypse’ in New Delhi and the news that 300 million children worldwide are exposed to toxic air on a daily basis has already prompted medical institutions, like the World Health Organisation, to accelerate the decarbonisation of our economies. This new initiative will help to put public health and welfare at the centre of ongoing efforts to curb carbon pollution.
- Medical experts are crystal clear: tackling the ‘world’s greatest’ environmental health risk means we have to speed up the phase-out of coal and bury this ‘silent killer’. Shutting down existing coal plants, avoiding new coal operations and rejecting false solutions like ‘clean coal’ will directly save lives by cutting air pollution, and as a bonus will help curb global warming along with its associated health impacts. The global coal industry is already in structural decline as sovereign wealth and pensions funds increasingly ditch risky fossil investments, often in favour of renewable energy as costs fall. And despite more fighting-talk from President-elect Trump, and the efforts of some wayward governments like Japan and Turkey to keep this outdated, 19th century industry afloat with massive public subsidies, old ship coal is sinking and investors are abandoning it for renewable energy lifeboats.
- The move to 100 per cent renewable energy is the biggest health opportunity of the 21st century, and cities, businesses, and countries especially vulnerable to climate change are pledging to speed up the transition. At the UN climate negotiations in Morocco a new coalition has formed to champion the shift from fossil fuels to a world powered by 100% renewable energy. Ditching fossil fuels and going fully renewable could save 100,000 lives a year in China, create 470,000 clean jobs in the US and save the EU $33billion a year in dirty energy imports. The World Health Organisation actively encourages the shift to cleaner energy sources that will simultaneously combat climate change (which, in its own right, is expected to kill 250,000 per year by mid-century and prevent disease and widespread pollution-related deaths.
- How to save 12.6 million lives a year (CNN)
- Lancet launches climate health impact ‘countdown’ (BusinessGreen)
- Global experts launch Lancet Countdown in response to climate change health crisis (MedicalXPress)
- Malcolm Turnbull must address the health risks of climate change (The Guardian)
- Honoring climate change agreements will save millions of lives (STAT)
- Trump’s ‘Nearly Impossible’ Promise to Revive Coal (IEEFA)
- Civil Society Groups Call For Governments To Commit To 100% Renewable Energy (Blue and Green Tomorrow)
- COP22: Cities, states, and clean tech pioneers unite to drive climate action (BusinessGreen)
- Denmark greenlights world’s cheapest offshore windfarm (EnergyDesk)
TOOLS & RESOURCES
- Website: The Lancet Countdown, tracking connections between health and climate change (The Lancet)
- Report: The Lancet Countdown, tracking connections between health and climate change (The Lancet)
- Report: Carbon Trap: How international coal finance undermines the Paris Agreement (NRDC)
- Report: Beyond fire – cooking with renewable energy (World Future Council)
IMAGES & VIDEO
- Video: Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change
- Images: Air Pollution kills 18,000 per day (Purpose), Stop F***ING COAL (Purpose) Lancet infographics (The Lancet)
- “There is an absolute public health imperative to act on climate change and on the causes of climate change. We also see that a failure to act on these issues and failure to take account of the health implications of our climate and energy decisions is also very bad development and it’s also very bad economics.” – Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, World Health Organization
- “The health impacts of climate change are already being felt and effecting some of the most vulnerable on our planet. No one is immune or out of reach. Climate action, spearheaded by governments and supported by business, cities, investors and citizens – including health care professionals – goes hand-in-hand with delivering a better quality of life in its own right and as a key pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals.” – Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- “One challenge of the ongoing global climate crisis is to convey the urgency of our collective predicament and the need for decisive action. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is being launched to amass the evidence needed to hold policymakers accountable for their promises and commitments. The research community can make an important contribution to heightening political awareness and accelerating progress to a healthier, low-carbon world.” – Dr Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet
- “Ending the use of coal is a simple, no-regrets public health intervention. The rapid phase-out of coal fired stations is an imperative first step. Coal is the most carbon-intensive source of power generation, and is a key focus for reducing the risks of climate change.” – the U.K. Health Alliance on Climate Change
- “Renewable energy is the ultimate 21st century technology. It provides clean, secure, home grown electricity which keeps our air pure and our climate safe. And it is agile enough to reach remote places that fossil powered grids cannot go. There is nothing with the same power to both save the planet and tackle poverty on a global scale.” – Mohamed Adow, Christian Aid
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