Ogmius Newsletter

Adventures In London & How The World Is Doing On Climate and Health

by Olivia Pearman

The 2018 Annual Meeting of The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change.

Olivia PearmanOlivia Pearman is a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder and is interested in improving approaches to complex environmental problems through policy.




Last month, on September 4th and 5th, I had the good fortune to travel to London to attend the annual meeting of The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change. The Lancet Countdown is a project that started in 2015 and produces a report published annually in the highly esteemed medical journal, The Lancet (2017 impact factor of 53.25). This report is put together through the efforts of dozens of experts based around the world representing 27 academic institutions as well as the United Nations and several intergovernmental agencies. These experts in health, climate, economics, and communication have formulated 41 indicators to track several facets related to health and climate change including: climate change impacts, exposures, and vulnerabilities; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and engagement in public and political spheres.

What am I getting at here? This is a massively impressive effort to collaborate across disciplines, geography, and institutions to achieve a tangible and grounded understanding of how the world is doing on climate and health. And I feel privileged to be able to contribute to one small part of it. In conjunction with the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) project, CSTPR provides the data and analysis for the indicator related to public engagement with health and climate change.

Max Boykoff, CSTPR Director, is the official member of the working group for the Lancet Countdown, but I was able to attend the meeting in London in his stead. I started getting involved with the project this year. I contributed to gathering the data to increase and expand the indicator’s coverage from eighteen to sixty-two newspaper sources. Thanks to my and Lucy McAlister’s (another associate of CSTPR and CU Boulder graduate) efforts, the indicator for the Lancet now tracks coverage of health and climate change in newspapers across thirty-six countries and in four languages – English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese.

And what have we found? Without getting too much into the gritty details, our findings for health and climate map pretty well onto the broader trends MeCCO has already seen tracking coverage of climate change. For example, the same events that spark increased coverage of climate change, such as the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP15), also sparked increased engagement with health and climate change. Based on the other indicators not covered by CSTPR, it also seems that health remains relatively marginal to broader engagement with climate change.

In London, I met the other members of our working group that work on the other related indicators, including coverage of health and climate in scientific publications, engagement in political discourse, and engagement in the corporate sector. They are an impressive cohort with extensive experience in this work. They represent several organizations, including the University of Birmingham, the University of York, the University of Essex, and Centre Virchow-Villermé (from France). The relationships CSTPR has formed with these individuals and organizations are valuable for continuing to improve our understandings of how and why people care about and engage with climate change – the most all-encompassing environmental problem of our time.

Olivia Pearman, olivia.pearman@colorado.edu