Leveraging climate actions for healthy ageing

Cai, W., Zhang, C., Zhang, S., Bai, Y., Callaghan, M., Chang, N., Chen, B., Chen, H., et al. (2023). Leveraging climate actions for healthy ageing. Chinese Science Bulletin 68 (33) 4472-4479. 10.1360/TB-2023-0366.

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As China’s population ages rapidly, the health risks associated with a changing climate are becoming more threatening. The 2022 China report of the Lancet Countdown, led by Tsinghua University with the contributions of 73 experts from 23 leading global institutions, tracks progress in climate change and health in China through 27 indicators across five domains: (1) Climate change impacts, exposure, and vulnerability; (2) adaptation, planning, and resilience for health; (3) mitigation actions and health co-benefits; (4) economics and finance; and (5) public and political engagement. This report is the third China Lancet Countdown report, paying particular attention to the impacts on the elderly and highlighting the urgency of taking action.

We selected the most urgent and relevant indicators to complete a policy brief that provides a better understanding of recent progress on climate change and health in China. We found heat-related health impacts increased from 2020 to 2021, increasing heat-related mortality, reducing labour capacity, and undermining the capacity to partake in physical activity due to rising temperature. In addition, exposure to wildfire, extreme drought, and extreme rainfall also increased in different regions across China. In 2021, compared with the 1986–2005 average, people in China had an average of 7.85 more heatwave days (which led to an extra 13185 heatwave-related deaths), and a loss of 0.67 more hours of safe outdoor physical exercise per day. The rising temperature also caused the annual average exposure to wildfire to increase by 60.0% between 2017–2021 compared with the 2001–2005 average. Meanwhile, the engagement on health and climate issues from individuals, scholars, and public sectors continues to grow rapidly. From 2020 to 2021, the number of climate-related articles and documents on the official websites of four Chinese Government departments grew by 1.83 times, and the number of climate-and-health-related articles and documents grew by 3.7 times. However, older populations received marginal attention on this issue in media coverage, although they are more vulnerable to the health threats of climate change than younger populations. In most provinces, people aged 65 years and older are facing higher health risks of climate change than the general population. In addition, we found that the inputs and attention to adaptation are still insufficient compared with the increasing health risks posed by climate change.

Based on the findings, the following recommendations are made to protect climate change-related health risks: (1) Increasing adaptation across governmental departments and accelerating investment in climate resilience. Adaptation across governmental departments and investment in climate resilience must be substantially increased to protect the health of Chinese populations. (2) Developing a stand-alone Health National Climate Adaptation Plan. Leaders must strengthen the response of local efforts to national plans, for example, by establishing a nationwide heat and cold and health early warning system with regional characteristics. (3) Prioritise climate change in health policies, with a focus on the wellbeing of vulnerable populations. Leaders should include climate change health impact prevention and treatment as one of the key responsibilities of the new National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention. (4) Accelerating coal reduction and integrating health considerations into China’s pathway to carbon neutrality. Leaders must strictly control the capacity of coal-fired power generation and accelerate the pace of coal reduction (especially in the household sector). (5) Promoting renewable energy generation and consumption by redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to China’s low-carbon economy. Leaders should keep encouraging renewable energy generation and consumption.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE)
Energy, Climate, and Environment (ECE) > Pollution Management (PM)
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2023 10:51
Last Modified: 18 Dec 2023 10:51
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/19292

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