Research published in the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change has concluded that 98,420 lives a year by 2040 could be saved in the UK through wider adoption of “flexitarian” diets.
And if 50% of the population adopts a vegan diet, with rest of the population flexitarian, the figure rises to over 100,00 lives saved per year. For comparison, the Covid19 pandemic has been part of the reason for 114,000 deaths in the last twelve months.
The figures are part of research that looked into the way that lives could be saved as a consequence if the UK, and other countrie takes action to tackle climate change. The survey was covered by The Guardian here.
It examined three scenarios: carrying on the current path, increasing efforts to achieve the Paris goals, and a more ambitious scenario, which put health at the heart of tackling climate change.
If the UK attained international climate goals 21,486 lives could be saved by people taking more exercise and 3,458 via reductions in air pollution. If the more ambitious plans were followed 5,771 lives could be saved from cuts to air pollution and 38,441 from more active travel, with 75% of people walking or cycling over the course of a week.
The research looked at the health impact of boosting national climate action plans to meet the Paris targets to avoid dangerous climate change across nine countries, including the US, China, Brazil and the UK.
The world is currently off track to meet the Paris goals, but the research found strengthening commitments to curb temperature rises in line with the international agreement would also have significant benefits for health.
Across all nine countries, implementing national climate plans which meet the Paris goals could save 5.8 million lives due to better diet, 1.2 million lives due to cleaner air, and 1.2 million lives due to increased exercise.
The lead author, Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change, said: “Our report focuses on a crucial but often overlooked incentive for tackling climate change.
Hamilton said: “Not only does delivering on Paris prevent millions dying prematurely each year, the quality of life for millions more will be improved through better health. Unlike the direct benefits of carbon mitigation which are ultimately long-term and understood in terms of damage limitation, the health co-benefits of ambitious climate policies have an immediate positive impact.”
“We have an opportunity now to place health in the forefront of climate change policies to save even more lives.”