Climate change threatens to undermine the last 50 years of public health gains; intensifying heatwaves and extreme weather events, worsening flood and drought, altering the spread of infectious diseases, and exacerbating poverty and mental illness. Responding to climate change, however, brings extensive benefits for human health, with cleaner air, healthier diets, and more liveable cities.
In 2015 the Lancet Commission on climate change and health concluded that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century” highlighting the need for a global monitoring system with the ability to engage policy makers and support health professionals. A Lancet Countdown was suggested. In 2016 following a public consultation regarding what key areas to track and monitor “The Lancet Countdown – Tracking Progress on health and climate change” was formed and launched. Bringing together researchers from a broad range of disciplines, the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change has ever since been keeping the finger on the pulse of climate action for health, annually updating over 40 indicators, monitoring the health impacts of climate change, and the multidimensional opportunities of accelerated climate action for human health and wellbeing.
Lancet Countdown recognizes that the voice of the health profession is essential in driving forward progress on climate change, and realizing the health benefits of a robust response. It also recognises that the impacts of climate change are being felt locally, by people in every country, and that the response needs to be adequate and tailored to people’s needs. Since 2019, it has therefore been establishing regional centres in key locations around the world, to expose the opportunities of climate action at the local level, and inform local decisions that maximise the health gains of a global transition.
The Lancet Countdown global and regional indicator reports are published annually in the medical journal The Lancet ahead of the UN climate change negotiations, with the purpose of providing the evidence that decision makers need to ensure a thriving future for us all.