29 November 2018
Major health report shows urgent climate action needed
A newly released report highlights that climate change poses an unacceptably high level of risk for the health of
populations around the world.
The 2018 Lancet Countdown report, released today ahead of the international climate change negotiations, was jointly authored by leading doctors,
academics and policy professionals from 27 organisations. It tracks the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the
associated health threats and opportunities.
“The report shows that our lack of progress threatens both human lives and the viability of national health systems they
depend on,” says Dr Rhys Jones, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The NZ Climate and Health Council.
“Present day changes in heat waves, labour capacity, vector-borne disease and food security provide an early warning of
future health impacts. Public health infrastructure will also be compromised by extreme weather events and as a result
of existing services being overwhelmed by the increased burden of disease.”
The report highlights that urgent steps are needed to protect people from the impacts of climate change. However, it
stresses that there are limits to adaptation. If left unabated climate change will overwhelm even the strongest of
systems, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical.
Dr Jones notes that we still have an opportunity to turn this looming emergency into the most significant advance for
public health this century.
“The potential benefits are staggering, and we know what actions are needed. Rapidly phasing out coal, oil and gas;
switching from car trips to more walking, cycling and public transport; healthier diets lower in red meat and dairy; and
energy efficient, warm homes will all cut emissions while also reducing many of the major diseases that kill New
“Politicians meeting next week must act now and make strong and bold commitments to secure a healthy future for all. The
nature and scale of the response to climate change will be the determining factor in shaping health for current and
“For the sake of our health, we need much stronger action on climate change at all levels of society. Existing
commitments and actions are grossly inadequate, and represent a major missed opportunity to improve New Zealanders’
health,” says Dr Jones.