The 2020 Report

No continent, country or community is immune from the health impacts of climate change.

Aligning the global COVID-19 recovery with our response to climate change offers the chance to protect health, promote a sustainable economy, and preserve our planet. Our 2020 Report tracks the relationship between health and climate change across five key domains and over 40 indicators.

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Key message

No country – whether rich or poor – is immune from the health impacts of climate change. Right now, people around the world face increasing extremes of heat, food and water insecurity, and changing patterns of infectious diseases. Unless urgent action is taken, the health impacts of climate change will bring further disruption, threaten lives and livelihoods and compromise the hospitals and clinics we depend on.

Key message

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change represent converging crises. Wildfires and tropical storms in 2020 have tragically shown us that we don’t have the luxury of tackling one crisis alone. At the same time, climate change and infectious disease share common drivers. Responding to climate change today will bring about cleaner skies, healthier diets, and safer places to live–as well as reduce the risk factors of future infectious diseases.

Key message

Aligning the global recovery from COVID-19 with our response to climate change offers a triple win: improve public health, create a sustainable economy, and protect the environment. But time is short. Failure to tackle these converging crises in tandem would move the world’s 1.5C target out of reach, damaging the health of the world’s 7.8 billion citizens in the short and long-term.

Explore key findings of this year’s report

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Climate Change Impacts, Exposures and Vulnerability

Climate Change Impacts, Exposure and Vulnerability

A changing climate has profound implications for human health, with more frequent heatwaves and extreme weather events, changing patterns of infectious disease, and the exacerbation of existing health challenges around the world. Indicators in this section track how these impact on human health.

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Adaptation, Planning, and Resilience for Health

Adaptation, Planning, and Resilience for Health

Indicators in this section track how communities, health systems, and governments are understanding the health risks of climate change, the strategies and resources they are deploying, and how adaptation and resilience measures are being implemented globally.

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Mitigation Actions and Health Co-Benefits

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF THE RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE

Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. Many of the interventions required to mitigate and adapt bring enormous benefits for human health and wellbeing in the form of cleaner air, healthier diets, and more liveable cities. Indicators in this section track the world’s efforts to mitigate climate change, and the health benefits of this response.

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Economics and Finance

Economics and Finance

The data here works to track the financial and economic dimensions of the effects of climate change, and of mitigation efforts required to respond to these changes. Indicators here monitor the economic costs of climate change and its drivers, as well as the investments and economic tools being deployed to transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Public and Political Engagement

Public and Political Engagement

Public and political engagement underpins the foundations of the world’s collective response to climate change, with reductions in global emissions at the speed required by the Paris Agreement depending on engagement from all sectors of society. The indicators in this section track the links between health and climate change in the media, national governments, the corporate sector, and the broader public.

  • Icon_1_Green Created with Sketch. Climate Change Impacts, Exposures and Vulnerability
    • 1.1.3 Heat-Related Mortality

      From 2000 to 2018, heat-related mortality in people older than 65 years increased by 53.7% and, in 2018, reached 296,000 deaths, the majority of which occurred in Japan, eastern China, northern India, and central Europe.

    • 1.2.1 Wildfires

      In 114 countries, there was an increase in the number of days people were exposed to very high or extremely high risk of danger from fire in 2016-19 compared with 2001-04. This increased risk translated into an increase in population exposure to wildfires in 128 countries.

    • 1.3.1 Climate Suitability for Infectious Disease Transmission

      Changing climatic conditions are increasingly suitable for the transmission of numerous infectious diseases. From 1950 to 2018, the global climate suitability for the transmission of dengue increased by 8.9% for Aedes aegypti and 15.0% for Aaedes albopictus.

    • 1.4.1 Terrestrial Food Security and Undernutrition

      From 1981 to 2019, crop yield potential for maize, winter wheat, soybean, and rice has followed a consistently downward trend, with reductions relative to baseline of 5.6% for maize, 2.1% for winter wheat, 4.8% for soybean, and 1.8% for rice.

  • Icons Final_Green-03 Created with Sketch. Adaptation, Planning, and Resilience for Health
    • 2.1.1 National Adaptation Plans for Health/2.1.2 National Assessments of Climate Change Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation for Health

      50% of the 101 respondents report having a national health and climate change plan in place.

    • 2.1.3 City-Level Climate Change Risk Assessments

      In 2019, 77% of 789 global cities that responded to the survey had either already completed or were actively undertaking climate change risk assessments, a substantial increase both in number of responding cities as well as in their undertaking of risk assessments from 2018.

    • 2.3.3 Urban Green Space

      Urban green space is an important measure to reduce population exposure to heat; 9% of global urban centres had a very high or exceptionally high degree of greenness in 2019, and more than 156 million people were living in urban centres with concerningly low levels of urban green space.

    • 2.4 Spending on Adaptation for Health and Health-Related Activities

      In 2019, global spending on health adaptation has increased to $18.4 billion, reaching 5.3% of total spending on adaptation.

  • Icons Final_Green_v2-03 Created with Sketch. Mitigation Actions and Health Co-Benefits
    • 3.1.2 Coal Phase-Out

      In 2018, global energy supply from coal was 1.2% higher than in 2017 and 74% higher than in 1990.

    • 3.2 Clean Household Energy

      Primary reliance on healthy fuels and technology for household cooking has continued to rise, reaching 63% of the global population in 2018. However, total consumption of zero-emission energy for all household needs remained low at 26%.

    • 3.5.2 Diet and Health Co-Benefits

      The global number of deaths due to excess red meat consumption rose to 990,000 deaths in 2017, a 72% increase since 1990.

    • 3.6 Mitigation in the Healthcare Sector

      The health-care sector was responsible for approximately 4.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

  • Icons Final_Green_v2-05 Created with Sketch. Economics and Finance
    • 4.1.2 Economics of Heat-Related Mortality

      The monetised value of global heat-related mortality increased from 0.23% of gross world product in 2000 to 0.37% in 2018. Europe was the worst affected in 2018, with costs equal to the average income of 11 million of its citizens and 1.2% of regional gross national income.

    • 4.1.3 Loss of Earnings from Heat-Related Labour Capacity Loss

      By 2015, heat-related reduction in labour capacity resulted in earnings losses equivalent to an estimated 3.9-5.9% of GDP in the lower-middle-income countries tracked.

    • 4.1.4 Economics of the Health Impacts of Air Pollution

      Across Europe, ambient PM2.5 pollution from human activity reduced between 2015 and 2018. If held constant, this improvement alone would lead to an annual average reduction in years of life lost to the current population worth $8.8 billion.

    • 4.2.5 Net Value of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Carbon Prices

      58 of the 75 countries reviewed were operating with a net negative carbon price in 2017. The resulting net loss of revenue was, in many cases, equivalent to substantial proportions of the national health budget.

  • Icons Final_Green_v2-06 Created with Sketch. Public and Political Engagement
    • 5.1 Media Coverage of Health and Climate Change

      Although total coverage of climate change increased substantially from 2018 to 2019, the rise was even greater for coverage of health and climate change, which increased by 96% during this period and has considerably increased from 2007 to 2019.

    • 5.3 Coverage of Health and Climate Change in Scientific Journals

      Between 2007 and 2019, original research on health and climate change increased by a factor of nine, a trend driven by research led by scientists in high-income countries.

    • 5.4 Government Engagement in Health and Climate Change

      National governments are increasingly paying attention to health and climate change. Small island developing states are leading this trend at the UN General Debate, and poorer and more climate-vulnerable countries were more likely to reference health in their NDCs, with 95% of least developed countries making these references.

    • 5.5 Corporate Sector Engagement in Health and Climate Change

      In 2019, engagement in health and climate change increased to 24% among health-care companies in the UN Global Compact, although this engagement continues to lag behind that of other sectors.

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News & Events

News & Events

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15/03/2021

Request for Proposals: Theory of Change Facilitator

The Lancet Countdown would like to further develop and formalize its theory of change (TOC), which will allow us to further develop our strategic plans and more substantively put in place criteria for establishing new work.

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04/03/2021

Responding to the health risks of climate change in Europe

A joint report from the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change and the European Environment Agency - ’Responding to the health risks of climate change in Europe’.

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We are hiring

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11/02/2021

Job opportunity: Lancet Countdown health adaptation research fellow

We are looking for a motivated individual with a keen interest in the links between human wellbeing and global environmental change, to work with a diverse team of Lancet Countdown researchers with expertise health adaptation to climate change.

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09/02/2021

The Lancet Planetary Health special issue

Millions of lives saved annually by 2040 if countries raise their climate ambitions to meet Paris Agreement targets, modelling study suggests

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