Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Climate Change Already Damaging Health of World’s Children, Threatens Lifelong Impact

CU Boulder one of 35 institutions to contribute to the 2019 Lancet Countdown report

Climate change is already damaging the health of the world’s children and is set to shape the wellbeing of an entire generation unless the world meets Paris Agreement targets to limit warming to well below 2˚C, according to a major new report published in The Lancet.

"It’s important to better understand the links between climate change and public health,” said CIRES fellow Max Boykoff, who contributed to the report with an investigation into media coverage of climate change and public health. “They demonstrate the immediacy of these intersecting challenges—we must approach with careful urgency to alleviate their negative impacts.”

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is a comprehensive yearly analysis tracking progress across 41 key indicators, demonstrating what action to meet Paris Agreement targets—or business as usual—means for human health. The project is a collaboration between 120 experts from 35 institutions including the World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank, University College London, Tsinghua University, and the University of Colorado Boulder.

The report highlights key climate change-related impacts:

  • Infants will be among the worst affected by crop failures
  • Children will be particularly susceptible to infectious disease outbreaks
  • Air quality will worsen—further damaging heart and lung health
  • Throughout their adult lives, extreme weather events will intensify

"This year, the accelerating impacts of climate change have become clearer than ever,” says Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of The Lancet Countdown and Director of the Institute for Human Health and Performance at University College London. “The highest recorded temperatures in Western Europe and wildfires in Siberia, Queensland, and California triggered asthma, respiratory infections and heat stroke. Sea levels are now rising at an ever concerning rate. Our children recognize this Climate Emergency and demand action to protect them. We must listen, and respond."

For the world to meet its UN climate goals and protect the health of the next generation, the energy landscape will have to change drastically, and soon, the report warns. Nothing short of a 7.4% annual cut in fossil CO2 emissions from 2019 to 2050 will limit global warming to the more ambitious goal of 1.5°C.

According to Boykoff, tracing media coverage of these issues helps to put our finger on the pulse of public discussions about their interactions and threats to human-environment wellbeing.

"We find that in newspapers across the world don't tend to report health and climate change as interconnected issues,” said Olivia Pearman, a PhD student working with Boykoff and another coauthor on the report. “While coverage of these issues together has been increasing in recent years, this observation speaks to the need for continued, sustained recognition and discussion of the interactions between human health and the environment." 

This press release has been modified from Lancet Communications. Read more here.

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.


Max Boykoff
CIRES fellow, coauthor
Olivia Pearman
CIRES PhD student, coauthor
Katie Weeman
CIRES Communications

Recent Stories