Report catalogs climate-related health impacts, urges phaseout of fossil fuels

November 21, 2023 – The most important way to reduce health problems and deaths attributable to climate change is to wind down fossil fuel extraction, according to a new report from The Lancet.

The 2023 report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, issued in mid-November, tracked nearly 50 health issues related to climate change. The health of millions of people around the world is being affected by exposure to fine particulate air pollution produced by the burning of fossil fuels, as well as by a range of climate-related events such as heat waves, floods, and droughts.

Renee Salas, an emergency medicine doctor and affiliated faculty member at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard Chan C-CHANGE), was a senior author on the report’s U.S. brief, and an author on the global report. She was one of the experts quoted about the report in a November 14 NPR article.

Salas called fossil fuel burning “the root cause of the health problems that I’m seeing in my patients and my colleagues are seeing around the world.” Salas told, for example, about one of her young patients with uncontrollable asthma who lived near a highway and had to breathe in toxic car exhaust. “So the treatment she needs is electric vehicles and home weatherization and air purification,” said Salas. “These are prescriptions I can’t write.”

Read the NPR article: Climate change, fossil fuels hurting people’s health, says new global report

Read a C-CHANGE article: The 2023 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Policy Brief for the U.S.

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