Centre researcher Victor Galaz will be part of a commission created by the international journal The Lancet to present mitigation and adaptation policies necessary to protect human health from the impacts of climate change. Photo: A. Maslennikov/Azote

Climate and health

Managing the health effects of climate change

Centre partner in ambitious Lancet initiative on climate change and health

Story highlights

  • Centre researcher Victor Galaz has been selected to be a member of a commission created by the international journal The Lancet
  • The commission brings together climate scientists, economists, energy experts, and health professionals to address health adaptation amid climate chang
  • Aims to contribute to a much-needed focus on health solutions, and not just health problems created by climate change

Centre researcher Victor Galaz has been selected to be a member of a commission created by the international journal The Lancet to present mitigation and adaptation policies necessary to protect human health from the impacts of climate change.

The commission, entitled The Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health, brings together a team of senior international climate scientists, economists, energy experts, and health professionals to discuss and develop strategies for health adaptation amid climate change. The commission replaces the first group which presented their findings in 2009, and is a unique collaboration between prominent universities including University College London (UK), Tsinghua University (China), and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

"The previous Lancet Commission made the point completely clear, that climate change is fundamentally a challenge for human health. The message is worth reiterating. Policy-makers, non-governmental actors, business and civil society are in desperate need of trustworthy assessments of innovative policies, institutions and proposals which could help us stay ahead of human health challenges posed by climate change," says Victor Galaz.

Issues on adaptation and resilience
Presenting its work in February 2015, the members of the commission and five working groups will use their knowledge to integrate scientific knowledge more cohesively with policy.

"Our ambition is to bring together and feature promising adaptation approaches; discuss their costs and scalability; and identify possible win-win trajectories. This is far from a simple task for several reasons"

Victor Galaz, member, The Lancet Commission on Climate Change and Health

The working group on adaptation and resilience, which Victor Galaz will co-lead, will address three major issues:

First, climate adaptation often entails a combination of several types of interventions. That is, they often include changes in economic incentives, the placement of new technologies, restoration of natural systems such as ecosystems, institutional reforms, and new forms of decision-making and funding arrangements. In addition, these interventions differ considerably across sectors (e.g. agriculture vs. energy production), and the scale of interest (e.g. local, national and regional).

Second, while some of the human health impacts of climate change can be partly predictable, others might emerge as surprises. Adaptation policies and institutions not only need to match known threats, but also need to be robust to surprising changes created by human, environmental and technological uncertainty.

Third, there are likely to be limits to adaptation. This raises the question: how far we push Earth's climate and ecosystems before the human health repercussions are of such scale, speed and intensity that human societies will systematically fail to adapt? And if that is the case, when are policies, which support transformation, rather than adaptation, needed?

"There are no easy answers, nor magic "silver bullet" solutions but our hope is that our work will contribute to a much-needed focus on health solutions, and not just health problems created by climate change," Galaz says.

About victor galaz

Staff details

Victor Galaz is an Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in political science. His current research interests are in global environmental governance, planetary boundaries, emerging technologies and emerging political conflicts associated with the notion of the Anthropocene

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