Climate change and human health

Health actors speak out on climate change issues

UN Framework Convention on climate change conference of parties (COP19)

Climate Change has been described as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (Lancet, 2009). Understanding of both the risks to health from climate change as well as the health co-benefits of addressing climate change through adaptation and mitigation has grown. Effective response, however, demands closer collaboration between the health sector and other sectors. COP19 is seeing a range of activities involving health sectors.

They include

  • A delegation of African health sector officials are participating, for the first time ever, in the climate negotiations, with sponsorship from the German Government. The delegation also recently participated in a WHO training seminar designed to prepare them to address health and climate negotiation issues.
  • COP 19 Climate and Health summit. The summit, 16 November, co-sponsored by WHO and the Global Health Alliance, will continue the work of the inaugural Climate and Health Summit at COP17 in Durban, which concluded with a “Durban Declaration on Climate and Health” and a Health Sector Call to Action. Topics being covered this year include:
    • health sector adaptation to climate change;
    • air pollution;
    • energy and health as a climate change issue; and
    • health co-benefits of climate mitigation: saving lives, the environment and money.
  • Reducing short-lived climate pollutants from air pollution for linked climate and health benefits. Air pollution now rivals smoking as one of the largest global causes of premature mortality – with over 6 million deaths a year. Small particulates are also now regarded as carcinogens. Reducing black carbon (a short lived climate pollutant and significant component of PM) from household biomass and diesel fuels, coal power plants, as well as methane emissions (which contribute to asthma) could help reduce near-term climate change by as much as .5 C before 2050. WHO has recently joined the Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC). The SLCP and air pollution issue will be covered at the Climate and Health Summit as well as at two other events, sponsored by the CCAC. These include:
    • Monday 18 November: a Climate and Clean Air Coalition co-sponsored event on Short-lived Climate Forcers, the work of the CCAC and Health, Agriculture, and Climate Benefits of Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.
    • Tuesday 19 November 2013, 13:15—14:45, National Stadium, Torun Room. The event is organized by Colombia’s Bellona Foundation, Earthjustice and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD) in collaboration with the CCAC.
  • Climate, Food Security and Health. On Tuesday 19 November, 18:30-20:00, another WHO co-sponsored event will consider how to Build Resilience and Reduce Climate Risks to support NAPS – with focus on Food Security and Health. This event is organized by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization, Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Related links