Commentary in The Lancet: How do we fairly distribute the harms that humanity faces from global heating?

By press office

In a commentary published in The Lancet on 28 June 2023 researchers from Queen Margaret University’s Institute for Global Health and Development discuss one of the great dilemmas facing our world – how can we equitably share the inevitable harms from global heating across the world and what capacity do we have across our global systems to protect the most vulnerable? 

The authors of the commentary ‘Equity in decline: fair distribution in a worse-off world’ invite the reader to imagine that human wellbeing is in sustained decline due to global heating and ecological collapse.  

Over the past century global wealth and wellbeing has increased almost unimaginably, and yet humanity has completely failed to distribute those benefits fairly. How then will we fairly share the harms arising from the declining world we have created, and who will decide how those harms are shared? How will we ensure that those who have been left behind are not pushed further behind, whereby creating further division between population groups and countries.  

The commentary argues for completely new ways to think about equity, a reorientation of the human rights frameworks, and an urgent, universal discourse on “equity in decline”. 

Professor Daniel Reidpath, Director of Queen Margaret University’s Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) and lead author of the commentary, said:

"The paper comes directly out of our research work that IGHD has carried out with refugees and health systems in fragile settings - these are the canaries in the coal mine - the early indicators of future challenges in a worse-off world. The significance of the paper lies in the explicit identification of the equity challenges of a world in decline, and the inadequacy of current frameworks and systems."
Professor Daniel Reidpath, Director of Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

It is a bleak scenario but one that must be urgently addressed by global leaders if we are to safeguard fairness and minimise future health disparities in our every changing world. 

Along with Professor Reidpath, the commentary was co-authored by Dr Arek Dakessian (Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) at Queen Margaret University) and Professor Sofia Gruskin (Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, University of Southern California), Mr Rajat Khosla (International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University) and Professor Pascale Allotey (Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, World Health Organization). 

To read the full commentary in The Lancet visit: IGHD in The Lancet.    

Comment pieces in The Lancet are written by experts in the field, and represent their own views, rather than necessarily the views of The Lancet or any Lancet specialty journal. Unlike Articles containing original research, not all Comments are externally peer reviewed. 

Notes to Editor

For further media information contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E:;  copy to E: M: 07711 011239. 

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