Lancet Countdown 2023 Report reveals the human cost of climate inaction

Dr Kris Murray, Lead of Planetary Health, and Dr Zakari Ali, research fellow in Climate and Health, both at MRC Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (MRCG) contribute to annual health and climate change report published in The Lancet
Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Logo

Dr Kris Murray and Dr Zakari Ali both researchers at MRCG have contributed new findings presented in the eighth annual global report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. The report delivers a concerning health stocktake, with new global projections revealing the grave and mounting threat to health of further delayed action on climate change.

Dr Kris Murray, Co-Director of the Centre on Climate Change and Planetary Health at LSHTM and MRCG and contributing author to the report stated that “The 2023 report illustrates the global inequity in the impacts of climate change on human health, the need for transformative mitigation and adaptation actions tailored to different contexts in different regions, and the rising tide of previously under-represented voices to help safeguard human health in the face of a changing climate. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa, where some of the world’s youngest and most entrepreneurial populations can help reverse climate misery by seizing climate opportunities to usher in a new era of sustainable, healthy development”

Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown, Dr Marina Romanello from University College London,  continued “Our health stocktake reveals that the growing hazards of climate change are costing lives and livelihoods worldwide today. Projections of a 2°C hotter world reveal a dangerous future, and are a grim reminder that the pace and scale of mitigation efforts seen so far have been woefully inadequate to safeguard people's health and safety.”

Dr Romanello emphasized “With 1,337 tonnes of carbon dioxide still emitted every second, we aren’t reducing emissions anywhere near fast enough to keep climate hazards within the levels that our health systems can cope with. There is an enormous human cost to inaction, and we can’t afford this level of disengagement – we are paying in lives. Every moment we delay makes the path to a liveable future more difficult and adaptation increasingly costly and challenging.”

Key findings of the Report

  • Climate inaction is costing lives and livelihoods today. In 2022, individuals were, on average, exposed to 86 days of health-threatening high temperatures, of which 60% were made at least twice as likely to occur because of human-caused climate change.
  • New global projections reveal the grave and mounting threat to health of further delayed action on climate change, with the world likely to experience a 4.7-fold increase in heat-related deaths by mid-century.
  • New regional section of the report highlights the different and unequal experience of the health impacts of climate change, and who is benefiting from climate change adaptation and the health co-benefits of the clean energy transition so far. Authors outline the opportunity that a just energy transition offers to reduce health inequities and improve the health and wellbeing of all populations.
  • Despite these harms, data from this year’s report reveal a world moving in the wrong direction. Governments, companies, and banks continue investing in oil and gas as the challenges and costs of adaptation soar, and the world approaches irreversible harm.
  • Without profound and swift mitigation to tackle the root causes of climate change, the health of humanity is at grave risk. The stark findings must force urgent health-centred climate action to shift the global economy to a zero-carbon footing while delivering “transformative opportunities” to improve the health of world populations through improved energy access and security, cleaner air, safer drinking water, healthier diets and lifestyles, and more liveable cities.


Transformative opportunities of health-centred climate action

The failure to seriously mitigate climate change is self-evident in the report, with health-related losses and damages soaring globally. However, the report is launching ahead of the 28th UN Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP28), which will – for the first time – feature health as a key theme, with an official Health Day and a climate-health ministerial. The Lancet Countdown report contributes to the evidence needed to inform the negotiations, and deliver truly health-protecting climate change action. 

Dr Zakari Ali, a contributing author to the Lancet Countdown 2023 Report and Research Fellow in Climate and Health at MRCG commented stating, “This year’s report highlights unequal effects of climate inaction on the health of people globally. People in Africa are among those most impacted by climate inaction despite Africa being a least contributor to climate change. However, opportunities exist for African governments to mitigate against climate change to safeguard the health of people in Africa. With Africa’s abundant supply of sunshine and raw materials needed for green technologies,  it has the potential to lead a just energy transition when given the right support. It is time for richer and leading carbon emitting countries to provide this right support for climate action in Africa.”

Responding to the report publication, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres (who was not involved in writing the report) says, “We are already seeing a human catastrophe unfolding with the health and livelihoods of billions across the world endangered by record-breaking heat, crop-failing droughts, rising levels of hunger, growing infectious disease outbreaks, and deadly storms and floods.

“The continuing expansion of fossil fuels is a death sentence to millions. There is no excuse for a persistent delay in climate action. Temperature rise must be limited to 1.5°C to avert the worst of climate change, save millions of lives, and help protect the health of everyone on earth.”

This report was funded by The Wellcome Trust.

Fee discounts

Our postgraduate taught courses provide health practitioners, clinicians, policy-makers, scientists and recent graduates with a world-class qualification in public and global health.

If you are coming to LSHTM to study a distance learning programme (PG Cert, PG Dip, MSc or individual modules) starting in 2024, you may be eligible for a 5% discount on your tuition fees.

These fee reduction schemes are available for a limited time only.