Envisioning environmental equity: climate change, health, and racial justice

Elsevier, The Lancet, Volume 402, 1 July 2023
Deivanayagam T.A., English S., Hickel J., Bonifacio J., Guinto R.R., Hill K.X. et al.

Climate change has a broad range of health impacts and tackling climate change could be the greatest opportunity for improving global health this century. Yet conversations on climate change and health are often incomplete, giving little attention to structural discrimination and the need for racial justice. Racism kills, and climate change kills. Together, racism and climate change interact and have disproportionate effects on the lives of minoritised people both within countries and between the Global North and the Global South. This paper has three main aims. First, to survey the literature on the unequal health impacts of climate change due to racism, xenophobia, and discrimination through a scoping review. We found that racially minoritised groups, migrants, and Indigenous communities face a disproportionate burden of illness and mortality due to climate change in different contexts. Second, this paper aims to highlight inequalities in responsibility for climate change and the effects thereof. A geographical visualisation of responsibility for climate change and projected mortality and disease risk attributable to climate change per 100 000 people in 2050 was conducted. These maps visualise the disproportionate burden of illness and mortality due to climate change faced by the Global South. Our third aim is to highlight the pathways through which climate change, discrimination, and health interact in most affected areas. Case studies, testimony, and policy analysis drawn from multidisciplinary perspectives are presented throughout the paper to elucidate these pathways. The health community must urgently examine and repair the structural discrimination that drives the unequal impacts of climate change to achieve rapid and equitable action.