The Lancet Countdown 2022 Climate Change and Health Report (LCCCHR) and the IPCC Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report are scientifically unsound and utterly political. They feed into the framework of the UN Paris Climate Deal Negotiations’ alarmistic, hyperbolic, misleading and even deceitful information about climate change and health. The LCCCHR unwittingly exposes the devastating public health effects of the UN’s current Sustainable Development Goals (SDG6), which crucially omit hygiene as a basic aim. Conservation ideals written out in the UN sustainable development classic ‘Our Common Future’ in 1987 started the process which derailed hygienic principles and environmental health policies from the centre of the development agenda, even though they had produced a public health miracle in today’s affluent countries. Affluent countries still benefit from the fruits of this agenda, which started in the 19th century. Western elites now deny the Global South the benefits of hygienic principles and good environmental health due to misguided green ideological beliefs – a cruel form of eco-imperialism. The deceitful, hyperbolically alarmistic and misleading LCCCHR was pivotal in promoting an alarmistic declaration on climate change and health adopted by over 120 countries at COP28 in Dubai.
The 2022 Lancet Countdown Climate Change and Health Report (LCCCHR) states that in the area of “climate change and food insecurity”, “diarrhoeal diseases are the leading cause of malnutrition in children younger than five years, while other infections can severely affect nutrient absorption and utilisation” – a statement that the World Health Organisation endorses. The origins of this idea came from the famous 1968 WHO monograph written by Harvard nutritionists.
LCCCHR fails to mention that this form of malnutrition is called stunting, which is a permanent condition. It develops if child has experienced sufficient number of diarrhoeal and other infectious disease episodes before his or her first birthday. Stunting is also intergenerational in nature. Accordingly, the LCCCHR authors confuse hunger and undernutrition and falsely claim that “food insecurity is increasing globally, with 720-811 million people hungry in 2020”. The FAO report LCCCHR is referring to defines “hunger in the world as, as measured using the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU)”. Thus, as stunting is a permanent condition and intergenerational in nature, the most important determinant of “hunger” in the Global South is lack of hygiene conditions according to WHO, not lack of food.
In the World Bank we came to the same conclusion in our peer-reviewed report published in 2008, based on an extensive review of cohort studies that showed that infections play a critical role in the development of stunting. We tried with this report to revitalise hygienic principles to the centre of the global development agenda, because environmental health policies and legislation administered across multiple sectors – with hygienic principles and infection control in its core – helped to eradicateundernutrition from the OECD countries over the period starting from 1860s to around the 1960s. Thanks to these policies we became one head taller and smarter in the developed world. OECD countries are still enjoying the full benefits of these policies, because it is unthinkable to abolish legislation and institutions which guarantee hygienic conditions and high environmental health standards in rich countries.