Examining the Links Between Climate Change and Health

Once viewed as a future threat, the science is clear that the impacts of climate change are very much present and rapidly growing. These are increasingly evident in climate change-related extreme weather events and temperature anomalies, affecting communities and economies around the globe. Research is conclusive that, without major intervention, these will become increasingly regular, but what of their impact on human health?

Together with experts from Reckitt and other partner organizations, EcoHealth Alliance scientists led a white paper to piece together the wide-ranging risks of impacts of unabated climate change on global health. The findings show that not only is immediate action necessary to prevent immense societal, ecological, and economic harm, but also that multi-sectoral cooperation is needed to adequately address these serious and potentially existential threats.

The Impact of Climate Change on Health: Reducing Risks and Increasing Resilience in the Era of COVID-19 presents the state of knowledge, demonstrating that the health burden of climate change will exceed the level of demand that health systems are prepared for. For example:

  • At present, there are nearly 13 million deaths per year linked to environmental factors like air pollution, infectious diseases, and extreme weather events, which will grow even higher without sufficient climate action.
  • By 2100, more than 40% of the world’s population will be exposed to extreme heat episodes each year. Temperature-related mortality alone is expected to rise to rival current levels of obesity- and diet-related illness.
  • Increasing temperatures are supporting range expansion for disease vectors, with resulting spread of vector-borne diseases expected in humans and animals.
  • Already strapped healthcare systems are not prepared for the increased burden of climate change-related health impacts.

The paper emphasizes the need for climate-smart COVID-19 recovery investments, reducing future emissions while strengthening human, animal, and environmental health systems to adequately prevent and prepare for the wide-ranging health effects of climate change. It demonstrates the necessity of a One Health approach to protect the health of people and the planet.

This paper is released as world leaders gather in Glasgow, Scotland for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), facing a dual crisis of the pandemic and a warming planet. It provides practical and urgent recommendations to encourage multi-sectoral cooperation as the world determines its fate for our present society and generations ahead. Read the Executive Summary or the full text of the paper here:

Executive Summary: The Impact of Climate Change on Health

The Impact of Climate Change on Health: Reducing Risks and Increasing Resilience in the Era of COVID-19