Lancet Offline: We have a decade

29 September, 2023

Thanks to Richard Horton for his column in today's Lancet. Extracts below. Full text here

'Today at #UNGA, world leaders have answered the call to rescue the #GlobalGoals.” So said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, last week. A sanguine conclusion. But, speaking with a friend steeped in the science of our present environmental emergency, others take a more pessimistic view. “We have 10–15 years”, he told me. “Then it's over. There is nothing we can do.” His opinion is that the tipping points have been well and truly tipped. The planet is fast becoming uninhabitable for half the human species. We are heading, ineluctably, for a global civilisational crisis...

'a recent study from China, Italy, and the US, led by Wangjie Hu and published in Science, has pinpointed a moment when our predecessors did come close to oblivion. By studying genomic sequences from ten African populations, Hu and colleagues discovered that a population crisis hit our ancestors between 930 000 and 813 000 years ago. They found that the average population size fell to about 1280 during this “bottleneck” period, only 1·3% of its original size...

'perhaps a repeat of the catastrophic human collapse experienced 800 000 years ago is not as unimaginable as we might have thought.'

COMMENT (NPW): Thanks to Richard Horton for this perceptive article. It is this last point "as unimaginable as we might have thought" that I find is the most important. If we look at the science, we *should* all be imagining the possibility, increasingly evolving into probability, of a catastrophic future for humanity due to climate change, even within the immediate future, within the next 30, 50 or 100 years. Understanding climate change and the impact this could have on human health is, I believe, part of HIFA's remit, part of the 'information that people need to protect their own health and the health of others'. I look forward to your comments.

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: