Millions of people could be saved every year if nations accelerated to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and prevent global warming, according to a study released today, which has 2040 as its horizon.
The study is the brainchild of the British scientific journal The Lancet, published today in The Lancet Planetary Health, an initiative of the Lancet’s Countdown to Health and Climate Change.
According to the document, adopting policies that prioritize health and conform to the objectives of the Paris Agreement will prevent global warming by more than two degrees compared to pre-industrial times, and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius, which could save millions of lives in nine countries by 2040.
Researchers estimate that better nutrition can save 6.4 million people, 1.6 million people by getting clean air and 2.1 million people by promoting physical exercise.
The countries considered for the study – Brazil, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States – represent half of the world’s population and 70% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
According to the Paris Agreement, all countries must submit their National Contributions (NDC, Nationally Regulated Contributions) to reduce GHG and control global warming on emissions reduction.
These NDCs were scheduled to be renewed for the next Climate Summit (COP26) scheduled for 2020, but were postponed to this year due to Govt-19. Many countries, including six of the nine groups under study, have not yet renewed their NDCs (39 countries and the European Union), and, authors, there is a risk that temperatures could rise further with current targets above three degrees.
Ian Hamilton, Managing Director of The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, quoted the study as saying that the health benefits of ambitious climate policies have an immediate positive impact, and “there is an opportunity to keep health” at the forefront of climate change policies to save more lives.
The study authors estimate that GHG emissions generated by the energy, agriculture and transportation sectors take into account risk factors related to annual deaths from air pollution and food and physical inactivity. They used three different scenarios, one analyzing the current policies from the NDCs in practice, the other complying with the Paris Agreement, and the other analyzing the additional benefits of incorporating explicit health objectives into the second scenario.
“The health benefits of strengthening NDC obligations are generated by directly mitigating climate change and supporting measures to reduce the exposure to harmful pollutants, improve diets, and enable safe physical activity,” the document said.
While they say some countries have strengthened their ambitions to reduce GHG emissions, based on the announcements of these pledges, “the world is not yet on track to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement, but the” warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius at the end of the century.
The Lancet Outtown on Health and Climate Change is an international collaboration on a global vision of the relationship between public health and climate change, and publishes a report each year bringing together more than 120 experts in various fields.