The Lancet Planetary Health: The burden of knowledge

9 June, 2024

Citation, selected extracts and a comment from me below.


The burden of knowledge

The Lancet Planetary Health

Open Access Published: June, 2024


'Much has been written about how we should think and write and feel about the environment. Certain types of messaging and framing of science and evidence are deemed more effective in changing people's behaviour than others...

'Should we worry about the risks or focus on the benefits and opportunities? All of this and much more has been debated...

'Thanks to the Guardian we have [insights] from a large survey of climate scientists. They reached out to every available lead author or review editor who has worked on an IPCC report since 2018, 380 out of 843 replied and the results were reported in May this year. The picture is very clear, the majority of survey respondents (77%) expect a global temperature rise of at least 2·5°C...

'When asked why we were making such little progress... the absence of political will was cited by nearly three quarters of the respondents, 60% also blamed vested corporate interests... Perhaps it is time to worry less about the 'right framing’ and more about the real barriers to action, starting with political will and the linked issue of vested interests.'

COMMENT (NPW): The editorial doesn't mention public understanding of climate change and, in particular, it current and potential negative impacts on health. As we have discussed on HIFA, such understanding is largely absent from the world population. Regarding current impacts, people in Delhi have just experienced their hottest day every recorded - 50 degrees C. How many of them understand how carbon emmissions, largey from the global north, have contributed to this? Regarding future impacts, understanding worldwide is likely to be even less. Public understanding of climate change is the key to driving the political will that this editorial identifies.

I'm not sure thy this editorial is called 'The burden of knowledge'. The burden is not knowledge - it is the pervasive lack of knowledge, due to a fundamental failure of science communication.

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: