August 11, 2015

Health benefits of reducing short-lived climate pollutants: the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change

Last month, the Lancet released a report on “Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health.” The report highlights the impacts of climate change on public health, the environment, and the economy and the policy responses needed in order to mitigate and adapt to the effects of these changes.  While the majority of the report focuses on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, short-lived climate pollutants, and more specifically black carbon and tropospheric ozone, are noted as having a particularly strong correlation to negative public health impacts as they are large contributors to air pollution.

The report identifies a number of recommended actions that can be taken to reduce the risks to human health posed by climate change, including “the phase out of coal…as part of an early and decisive policy package which targets air pollution from the transport, agriculture, and energy sectors, and aims to reduce the health burden of particulate matter (especially PM 2.5) and short-lived climate pollutants.” Further actions include increasing access to low-cost active transportation and renewable energy, transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and strengthening health systems in low- and middle-income countries.

Short-lived climate pollutants received additional attention in a comment piece released along with the report, which noted that the “reduction of these [short-lived climate] pollutants…provides a unique opportunity to simultaneously mitigate climate change and improve population health in the near term, with benefits realised on a temporal and spatial scale relevant to policy makers.”

In an effort to provide resources on implementing policies to mitigate the effects of climate change and monitor progress on these issues, The Lancet Commission is supporting the Countdown to 2030: Global Health and Climate Action. This independent, international coalition will bring together experts from a range of disciplines including health, the environment, energy, economics, and policy to monitor and report every two years on the progress being made to protect the world’s population from the harmful effects of climate change.