Climate change and human health

Our Climate, Our Health: Road to COP21

Geneva - Climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. Health professionals have a duty of care to current and future generations. They are also on the front line in protecting people from climate impacts, from more heatwaves and other extreme weather events, to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera, to the effects of malnutrition. Health professionals around the world are also strong advocates for healthier environments, providing clean air, abundant and safe food and water.

WHO and WMO issue guidance on heat health warning systems

1 July 2015 – WHO and WMO have issued new joint guidance on heat–health warning systems to address the health risks posed by heatwaves, which are becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change.

The length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase over most land areas during this century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In recent weeks alone, both India and Pakistan have been hit by deadly heatwaves, killing hundreds of people. The European heatwaves in the northern hemisphere summer of 2003 was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, as were the Russian heatwaves, forest fires and associated air pollution in 2010.

Achieving a cleaner, more sustainable and healthier future

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change has been formed to map out the impacts of climate change, and the necessary policy responses, in order to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for populations worldwide. This Commission is multidisciplinary and international in nature, with strong collaboration between academic centres in Europe and China.

Climate change agreement critical to public health


“Country Profiles for Health and Climate Change” presented at the UNFCCC Bonn Conference, 2 June 2015

Through these country profiles, WHO and the UNFCCC Secretariat aim to support countries to reach a positive outcome for health and for the climate system, by providing evidence and arguments to empower Ministries of Health to engage in the preparations of national positions before the final COP21 negotiations in December.

In focus

New publication

  • Operational framework for building climate resilient health systems
    This framework provides guidance for health systems and public health programming to increase their capacity for protecting health in an unstable and changing climate. By implementing the 10 key components laid out in this framework, health organizations, authorities and programmes will be better able to anticipate, prevent, prepare for and manage climate-related health risks.

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