The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change

The Lancet Countdown is an international, multidisciplinary research collaboration that has developed indicators to track the progress of climate change mitigation and adaptation in terms of public health globally. The analysis provides an assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and the health implications of these actions on populations worldwide. In 2016 the Lancet Countdown proposed a set of potential indicators to be monitored, and coordinated a global analysis to define this conclusive set of indicators for 2017. The overall findings are that although progress in mitigating climate change has been historically slow, the past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, creating unprecedented opportunities for public health.

The Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has concluded that “anthropogenic climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health, and conversely, that a comprehensive response to climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.” According to the report, monitoring this transition, from climate threat to current opportunity, is the central role of the Lancet Countdown.

40 Indicators of progress on health and climate change were developed and tracked, and are reviewed in detail in the report. The findings on these Indicators are categorized in five sections:

  1. Climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability
  2. Adaptation planning and resilience for health
  3. Mitigation actions and health co-benefits
  4. Economics and finance
  5. Public and political engagement

The results and analysis of each indicator are presented alongside a brief description of the data sources and methods.

Section 1: Climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerability looks at the health effects of temperature change and heatwaves, impacts on labour capacity, and the lethality of weather-related disasters. Global health trends in climate-sensitive diseases are discussed as well as populations vulnerable to food security and undernutrition, and migration and population displacement. 

Section 2 is focused on Adaptation planning and resilience for health and describes the number of national adaptation plans for health and city-level climate change risk assessments worldwide. The other indicators presented here are predominantly process-based, focusing on health adaptation planning, capacity, and response - including:

2.3. Detection and early warning of, preparedness for, and response to health emergencies

2.4. Climate information services for health

2.5. National assessment of vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation for health

2.6. Climate-resilient health infrastructure

The report states that from these indicators - “The public and the health systems they depend on are clearly unprepared to manage the health impacts of climate change.”

The key messages from the 40 indicators in the Lancet Countdown's 2017 report are summarized as:

  • The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible - affecting the health of populations around the world today.
  • The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardized human life and livelihoods.
  • The voice of the health profession is essential in driving forward progress on climate change and realizing the health benefits of this response.
  • Although progress has been historically slow, the past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017, momentum is building across a number of sectors; the direction of travel is set, with clear and unprecedented opportunities for public health.


Publication Date: October 30, 2017


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment
  • Indicators

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