Slava Jankin and Simon Munzert contribute research on health and climate change to 2020 Lancet Countdown

Their indicators aim to help guide policymaking on "converging crises", like pandemics and global warming.

For the fourth year running, two Hertie School professors contributed to the annual Countdown on Health and Climate Change, a report published by the premier medical journal, The Lancet, on 3 December 2020.

For the report, “Responding to Converging Crises”, Simon Munzert, Assistant Professor of Data Science and Public Policy, and Slava Jankin, Professor of Data Science and Public Policy and Director of the Hertie School Data Science Lab, contributed to the analysis of public and political engagement. This considers scientific research, media, government, corporate sector and individual engagement, tracking trends over time and analysing the types and dynamics of engagement in 2019.

Munzert developed an indicator of how individuals engage at the nexus of health and climate change, based on his research on how people use Wikipedia across health and climate change domains. The research captures the link between two issues by examining how users move between articles. Tracing this connection over time allows for a dynamic tracking of individual, citizen level engagement. It is part of his methodological research into new forms of data and the use of extremely large quantities of structured and unstructured data to analyse social dynamics.

Jankin contributed two indicators focusing on government, a key arena for driving the global response to climate change, and on business, which, through the sector’s behaviour and wider political influence, is central to the transition to a low-carbon economy. The former is based on speeches delivered by country leaders in the United Nations General Debate – the key event for member states to speak about their nations’ priorities and concerns. The latter is based on the company reports in the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s biggest corporate sustainability framework. Both indicators use machine learning and natural language processing algorithms to analyse large quantities of textual data from leaders’ statements and corporate reports.

This year’s report focused on the convergence of multiple crises and their effects on health around the globe.  According to the report, a failure to act on crises such as extreme heat, food and water insecurity, along with changing patterns of infectious diseases, “will bring further disruption, threaten lives and livelihoods and compromise the hospitals and clinics we depend on.”  The COVID-19 pandemic is one example of these converging crises, the report said. “Aligning the global recovery from COVID-19 with our response to climate change offers a triple win: improve public health, create a sustainable economy, and protect the environment,” The Lancet said.

The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change is an international, multidisciplinary research collaboration involving 120 scientists at 38 leading academic and UN institutions from around the world. It was established to provide an independent, global monitoring system dedicated to tracking how health around the world is affected by changing climate.

Find the 2020 report here.

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