Climate change is among the greatest health risks of the 21st Century. Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events cost lives directly, increase transmission and spread of infectious diseases, and undermine the environmental determinants of health, including clean air and water, and sufficient food.
Addressing climate change is necessary – and is also a huge opportunity for public health. Guided by a World Health Assembly Resolution and workplan endorsed by all of its Member States, WHO provides a comprehensive programme to protect health from climate risks, and to ensure that actions to mitigate climate change also protect and improve people’s health.
8 December 2015 - At a high-level WHO side event, WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan called on negotiators to rapidly close an agreement on climate change, saying that the “world is recklessly late in agreeing.” Climate change already claims tens of thousands of lives a year from diseases, heat and extreme weather. And air pollution, largely from the same sources as climate change, claims 7 million lives annually.
“If the right commitments are made, efforts to combat climate change will produce an environment with cleaner air, more abundant and safer freshwater and food, and more effective and fair systems for social protection,” Chan said.
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.
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.
“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.
News and events
- WHO technical briefing on COP21
- WHO calls for urgent action to protect health from climate change – Sign the call
- Our climate, our health: It’s time for all health professionals to take action
- France Ministry of health and WHO conference highlights impacts of climate change on health, and health inequities
- Climate change agreement critical to public health