The 2018 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change by Nick Watts and colleagues published on Nov 28 provides a snapshot and direction of travel for 41 global indicators at the intersection between health and climate change.
Indicator 5.1: media coverage of health and climate change shows that health still represents only a small proportion of climate change media coverage but has increased by an average of 4% per year over the past decade compared with a decline in overall climate change coverage by an average of 1·25% per year. Health potentially holds the key to humanising climate change conversations, contributing to more rapid and effective behaviour change—and it therefore matters how it is positioned.
Describing the effects of climate change through a humanising lens would mean that instead of framing climate change with arbitrary deadlines of 2030, or 2050, we approach it intergenerationally: in 32 years’ time, a child born today will reach independent adulthood and the crises facing the next generation thus become defined by familial connections—which is how most people define their identity. Today’s babies, by adulthood, will live on a planet without an Arctic. Prevalence of heatstroke and extreme weather will have redefined global labour and production beyond recognition. Multiple cities will be uninhabitable and migration patterns will be far beyond those levels already creating pressure worldwide.
Individual engagement and action contributes to a growing wave of change. This does not negate the need for engagement at international policy level and for governments to better use their powers, but this can be accelerated and complemented by harnessing the collective voice of individuals. The LancetCountdown on health and climate change reports on the facts and data. Using those to capture imagination and to influence behaviour change increases impact. Although much of the damage already caused to our planet may be irreversible, it is still within reach to alter the course of the next generation’s inheritance. Using health to humanise the narrative will help realise that goal.
Published: November 28, 2018
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