The health impacts of climate change are getting worse, exposing communities around the world to greater risks of food and water insecurity, heatwaves and the spread of infectious diseases, according to a new report by the Lancet Countdown.

The Lancet Countdown is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of leading researchers from 43 academic institutions and United Nations agencies that independently monitors the health consequences of a changing climate and publishes its findings in an annual report.

The 2021 report of the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: code red for a healthy future was launched at a virtual event held on 21 October 2021. The report tracks 44 indicators of health impacts that are directly linked to climate change, across five key thematic groups:

  • climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability;
  • adaptation planning and resilience for health;
  • mitigation actions and health co-benefits;
  • economics and finance; and
  • public and political engagement.

The report notes that key trends are getting worse across every indicator, affecting people in all corners of the world.

For example, the potential for outbreaks of dengue, chikungunya and Zika is increasing most rapidly in countries with a very high human development index, including European countries.

Suitability for malaria infections is increasing in cooler highland areas of countries with a low human development index.

Coasts around northern Europe and the United States of America are becoming more conducive to bacteria which produce gastroenteritis, severe wound infections and sepsis. In resource-limited countries, the same dynamic is putting decades of progress towards controlling or eliminating these diseases at risk.

The report also notes that there are 569.6 million people living less than five metres above current sea levels, who could face rising risks of increased flooding, more intense storms, and soil and water salinification. Many of these people could be forced to permanently leave these areas and migrate further inland.

In light of these and other growing climate-related risks, the authors of the report call for urgent, globally coordinated action to mitigate climate change and build a healthier, sustainable future for all.

Among the report’s co-authors is Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich on joint appointment at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Visit the Lancet Countdown 2021 website to read the thematic summaries and key findings of the report.

Access the full-text Lancet Countdown 2021 report and related articles and resources on the Lancet Countdown on health and climate change website.

Photo credit: Fishing quarter in Maputo, Mozambique (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

Village women and livestock in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

A special issue (Aug 2021) of the Scientific and Technical Review journal of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) turns the spotlight on the operation of veterinary services in a world affected by various external factors such as climate change and emerging zoonotic diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the world’s attention to the threat of emerging zoonotic diseases and the importance of a One Health approach in preventing and responding to these and other global health challenges.

Veterinary services are a global public good underpinning animal agriculture. Therefore, governments need to ensure the sustained performance and resilience of veterinary services in the face of external factors.

The special issue was edited by three scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): Delia Grace (also affiliated with the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich), Hu Suk Lee and Jimmy Smith.

The 18 open access articles in the special issue—10 of which were co-authored by ILRI scientists—take an in-depth look at the implications of key external factors on veterinary services; these factors include animal welfare, antimicrobial resistance, climate change, digital technologies, planetary boundaries and zoonotic disease risks.

Future-facing initiatives relevant to veterinary services, such as global nutrition security, animal health and food safety risk assessments, and sustainable development, are also discussed.

Access the special issue: Veterinary services in a changing world: climate change and other external factors, Scientific and Technical Review 40(2).

Photo credit: Village women and livestock in Niger (ILRI/Stevie Mann)

The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change represent converging challenges to which no continent, country or community is immune. Aligning the global recovery from COVID-19 with our response to climate change offers a triple win: protect public health, promote a sustainable economy and preserve our planet.

This is according to a new report by the Lancet Countdown initiative, an international, multi-disciplinary research collaboration that tracks the evolving public health impacts of climate change and publishes its findings annually in The Lancet medical journal ahead of the United Nations climate change negotiations.

The Lancet Countdown 2020 report, launched on 3 December 2020, tracks the links between health and climate change across 43 indicators in five domains:

  • climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities;
  • adaptation, planning and resilience for health;
  • mitigation actions and health co-benefits;
  • economics and finance; and
  • public and political engagement.

The report represents the findings and consensus of the 35 leading academic institutions and United Nations agencies that make up the Lancet Countdown initiative, and draws on the expertise of climate scientists, geographers, engineers, experts in energy, food and transport, economists, social and political scientists, data scientists, public health professionals and doctors.

Among the report’s co-authors is Delia Grace, professor of food safety systems at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich and contributing scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute.

Visit the Lancet Countdown 2020 website to read thematic summaries and key findings of the report. The full text of the report is available for free via The Lancet (you will need to create a free account with The Lancet).

Photo credit: A Maasai pastoralist taking livestock to drink from the Olkitikiti Dam in Olkitikiti village, Kiteto, Tanzania (ILRI/Fiona Flintan)

Crop-livestock systems in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Hung Nguyen-Viet).

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that commonly occurs in warm, tropical climates. It is characterized by high fever and flu-like symptoms that can last for up to one week. In a small proportion of cases, severe dengue may occur, leading to bleeding and low blood pressure. There is no specific treatment for infection but medication can be taken to control symptoms.

Climate change and rapid unplanned urbanization are among the factors that have brought people into more frequent contact with the vectors, thus contributing to further spread of disease.

According to the World Health Organization, the global incidence of dengue has risen dramatically in recent decades, with an estimated 390 million dengue infections annually.

Vietnam is one of at least 100 countries where the disease is now endemic. Dengue infection in Vietnam is unstable but peaks from June to October annually.

As part of efforts to curb the spread of dengue in Vietnam, research efforts are being undertaken to develop tools that will enable timely detection and control of the disease. One such research study recently examined seasonal trends of dengue in Vietnam and used the data to develop a statistical model to forecast the incidence of the disease.

The study, published in PLOS ONE (27 Nov 2019), was carried out by a team of researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute and Vietnamese partners from Hanoi University of Public Health, the Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change, the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

To develop the statistical risk forecasting model, the researchers used dengue surveillance data that had been collected by health centres in Vietnam’s 63 provinces between 2001 and 2012. In addition, they obtained monthly meteorological data from the Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology and Climate Change. Land cover data were obtained from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer website of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The data were also used to develop risk maps of dengue incidence showing the distribution of the incidence of infection in the wet and dry seasons. The researchers are optimistic that with these new risk-based forecasting tools, policymakers and planners in Vietnam will be better able to predict dengue incidence in the country and thus respond in a timely manner to effectively control the disease.

Citation
Bett, B., Grace, D., Hu Suk Lee, Lindahl, J., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Phuc Pham-Duc, Nguyen Huu Quyen, Tran Anh Tu, Tran Dac Phu, Dang Quang Tan and Vu Sinh Nam. 2019. Spatiotemporal analysis of historical records (2001–2012) on dengue fever in Vietnam and development of a statistical model for forecasting risk. PLOS ONE 14(11): e0224353.

Photo credit: Crop-livestock systems in Vietnam (ILRI/Hung Nguyen)

To the grazing field, Afar, Ethiopia

Cattle going to the grazing field in Afar region, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Climate change influences the occurrence and transmission of a wide range of livestock diseases through multiple pathways. Diseases caused by pathogens that spent part of their life cycle outside the host (for instance, in vectors or the environment) are more sensitive in this regard, compared to those caused by obligate pathogens.

A newly published book, The Climate-Smart Agriculture Papers, brings together some of the latest research by agricultural scientists on climate-smart agriculture in eastern and southern Africa. The 25 chapters of the book highlight ongoing efforts to better characterize climate risks, develop and disseminate climate-smart varieties and farm management practices, and integrate these technologies into well-functioning value chains.

In a chapter on climate change and livestock diseases, scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) use two well-studied vector-borne diseases—Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases—as case studies to describe direct pathways through which climate change influences infectious disease-risk in East and southern Africa.

Access the chapter, Climate change and infectious livestock diseases: The case of Rift Valley fever and tick-borne diseases by Bernard Bett, Johanna Lindahl and Delia Grace.

Indicator 2.2, 2018 Lancet Countdown report. 51% of global cities expect climate change to seriously compromise public health infrastructure

The Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change is a multidisciplinary, international research collaboration that provides a global overview of the relationship between public health and climate change. Publishing its findings annually in The Lancet, the initiative generates research evidence to inform an accelerated policy response to climate change.

The Lancet Countdown 2018 report presents the work from leading academics and technical experts from 27 partner academic and United Nations institutions around the world, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Tehran University of Medical Sciences, University of Sydney and the World Health Organization. The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Among the report’s co-authors are Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and co-leader of the Animal and Human Health program at ILRI, and Paula Dominguez-Salas, assistant professor in nutrition-sensitive agriculture at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on joint appointment at ILRI.

The Lancet Countdown initiative brings together climate scientists and geographers, mathematicians and physicists, transport and energy experts, development experts, engineers, economists, social and political scientists, and health professionals, reporting on 41 indicators across five key thematic groups:

  • climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerability;
  • adaptation planning and resilience for health;
  • mitigation actions and health co-benefits;
  • economics and finance; and
  • public and political engagement.

Below are the four key messages of the Lancet Countdown 2018 report:

  1. Present day changes in heat waves, labour capacity, vector-borne disease and food security provide early warnings of the compounded impacts on public health that are expected if temperatures continue to rise. Trends in climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities show an unacceptably high level of risk for the current and future health of populations across the world.
  2. A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.
  3. A number of sectors have seen the beginning of a low-carbon transition; the nature and scale of the response to climate change will shape the health of nations for centuries to come.
  4. Ensuring a widespread understanding of climate change as a central public health issue will be crucial in delivering an accelerated response, with the health profession beginning to rise to this challenge.

The full text of the Lancet Countdown 2018 report is available for free via The Lancet website (you will need to create a free account with The Lancet).

The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the health implications of these actions. The research evidence thus generated will help to inform decision-making and drive an accelerated policy response to climate change.

The initiative is a collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations based in every continent and with representation from a wide range of disciplines including climate scientists, ecologists, economists, social and political scientists, public health professionals and doctors.

The Lancet Countdown’s 2017 report tracks 40 indicators across five areas, arriving at three key conclusions:

  • The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible.
  • The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardised human life and livelihoods.
  • The past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017 momentum is building across several sectors.

Visit the Lancet Countdown website for a thematic breakdown of the report. The full text of the Lancet Countdown 2017 report is available for free via The Lancet website.

Among the report’s co-authors are Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and co-leader of the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Paula Dominguez-Salas, postdoctoral researcher in nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College on joint appointment at ILRI.

A new international, multidisciplinary research initiative, the Lancet Countdown, was launched yesterday (14 Nov 2016) to track and analyse the impacts of climate change on public health.

The initiative will generate new research evidence to inform decision-making and drive an accelerated policy response to climate change. It will publish its findings annually in The Lancet, the leading global medical journal.

The Lancet Countdown is a collaboration of 48 leading experts from around the world, drawn from 16 academic and research institutions including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Tsinghua University (China), University College London and the World Health Organization. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

You can download the inaugural report, The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, for free via The Lancet website.

Among the report’s co-authors are Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and leader of ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses program, and Paula Dominguez-Salas, postdoctoral researcher in nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College on joint appointment at ILRI.

In a new paper published on 23 June 2015, the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change says that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of this century, and puts forward 10 recommendations for governments to take action in the next 5 years.

ILRI news

MarbleFigureOfAWoman_BritishMuseum

Marble figurine of a woman, from the Cyclades, Aegean Sea, early Bronze Age, about 2600-2400 BC (via the British Museum).

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was formed to map out the impacts of climate change and the necessary policy responses. The central finding from the Commission’s work is that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. See a summary of the key messages of the paper, published this week in The Lancet (22 Jun 2015)—Health and climate change: Policy responses to protect public health.

One of the authors of the paper is ILRI veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). Another is her colleague Victor Galaz, professor of politics at the Stockholm Resilience Centre

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Livestock graze on an island in the Niger

Livestock grazing on an island in the River Niger, as seen off a bridge in Niger’s capital, Niamey (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The livestock sector contributes significantly to the global economy and to rural livelihoods. Globally, approximately one billion smallholder farmers keep livestock. However, the burden of animal disease in developing countries is high; livestock disease kills 20% of ruminants and over 50% of poultry each year, causing annual losses of approximately USD 300 billion.

A new report on climate and livestock disease by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) shows that climate change can increase the burden of livestock diseases, and some diseases like Rift Valley fever and trypanosomosis are especially sensitive to climate change.

Climate change may also have indirect effects on animal diseases, for example, higher temperatures and greater humidity can lead to faster development of disease-causing parasites and pathogens.

In order to address climate impacts on the livestock sector, the authors make the following recommendations for policymakers:

  • Invest in ‘no regret’ adaptation responses. Many adaptation responses based on improving the control of climate-sensitive livestock diseases are ‘no regret’ options, which, by reducing the burden of livestock disease, will enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty and address global inequity irrespective of climate change.
  • Improve disease surveillance and response in order to detect changes in disease in a timely way, thus dramatically reducing the costs of response. This requires investment and innovation in disease reporting systems as well as laboratories capable of confirming diseases. Risk-based and participatory surveillance are promising options for improving disease reporting.
  • Increase the capacity to forecast near term occurrence of climate-sensitive diseases, and to predict longer-term distribution of diseases through better epidemiological information and ground-truthed models.
  • Improve animal health service delivery by investing in the public sector and supporting innovations in the private sector such as community animal health workers linked to private veterinarians. Promote One Health and ecohealth approaches to disease control, especially in vulnerable communities with high reliance on livestock (for example, pastoralists in East Africa).
  • Support the eradication of priority diseases where this is economically justified. Develop diagnostics and vaccines, and promote adoption of good practices and strengthened biosecurity to improve disease control.
  • Increase the resilience of livestock systems by supporting diversification of livestock and livelihoods, and integrating livestock farming with agriculture. Consider promotion of species and breeds that are more resistant to disease and climate change.
  • Adopt breeding strategies focused on identifying and improving breeds that are better adapted to climate change impacts and disease.
  • Understand the potential land use changes in response to climate change and monitor their impacts on animal disease to allow preventive or remedial actions.

The report was submitted to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of a special workshop on agriculture at the 42nd session of the SBSTA held on 1-11 June 2015 in Bonn, Germany.

An information note, Impact of climate change on African agriculture: focus on pests and diseases, gives a summary of the submission.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH) supported the preparation of the report.

Citation
Grace D, Bett B, Lindahl J and Robinson T. 2015. Climate and livestock disease: assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to livestock pests under climate change scenarios. CCAFS Working Paper No. 116. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).