Experts say the health impacts of climate change are already being felt.

Leading science journal The Lancet has published its first Countdown on Health and Climate Change, which finds that climate change is already having an impact on health, impacting on labour productivity, the spread of infectious disease and exposure to air pollution and heatwaves, and affecting countries worldwide.

While there is evidence of early adaptation and mitigation strategies being implemented in some areas, the authors warn that further progress is urgently needed.

The report is the first in an ongoing series of annual analyses tracking progress on climate change on 40 key indicators.

The project is a collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organisations including the World Health Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation.

By combining multiple data sources, undertaking new analysis and devising new indicators, the report tracks progress in five areas: climate change impacts, exposures and vulnerabilities; adaptation planning and resilience for health; mitigation actions and health co-benefits; economics and finance; and political and public engagement.

The report finds;

  • Between 2000-2016, there has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of weather-related disasters, and 125 million adults aged over 65 were exposed to heatwaves
  • Increasing temperatures have led to around 5.3 per cent loss in labour productivity, and economic losses linked to climate-related extreme weather events were estimated at US$129 billion in 2016
  • Vectoral capacity of just one type of dengue-carrying mosquito has increased by 9.4 per cent since 1950 as a result of rising temperatures
  • Global exposure to dangerous levels of air pollution has increased by 11.2 per cent since 1990, with 71 per cent of 2971 cities exceeding recommended levels of PM2.5
  • Increase in electric cars, generation of renewable energy, and health adaptation spending show that momentum is building, but further progress is urgently needed

“We are only just beginning to feel the impacts of climate change,” says Professor Hugh Montgomery, co-chair of The Lancet Countdown.

“Any small amount of resilience we may take for granted today will be stretched to breaking point sooner than we may imagine.

“We cannot simply adapt our way out of this … [we] need to treat both the cause and the symptoms of climate change.”

Christiana Figueres, chair of The Lancet Countdown’s advisory board and former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, hopes the report will prompt action.

“The Lancet Countdown’s report lays bare the impact that climate change is having on our health today,” she said.

“It also shows that tackling climate change directly, unequivocally and immediately improves global health. It’s as simple as that. Most countries did not embrace these opportunities when they developed their climate plans for the Paris Agreement. We must do better.

“When a doctor tells us we need to take better care of our health we pay attention and it’s important that governments do the same.”