Climate change and human health

For many, climate change often conjures up images of polar bears and icecaps. But it also poses great risks to human health. The Global Climate and Health Alliance gives an overview of these risks, and also looks at the available opportunities to take action and improve health across the globe.

Video source: Global Climate and Health Alliance / YouTube.

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NARRATOR: For many, the words ‘climate change’ conjure images of polar bears and melting ice caps. But one of the biggest impacts is much closer to home: the threat to our health. The Lancet, one of the world’s most influential medical journals, has called climate change the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines the impact on human health and wellbeing. Using the best science available, now more certain than ever, it details the risks and vulnerabilities each country faces. The report describes a world where an additional 25 million children are undernourished, where dangerous infectious diseases like malaria spread to new shores, where natural disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, Hurricane Katrina, floods in the UK and Europe and bushfires in Australia become more severe, affecting many more people. These pressures are likely to exacerbate poverty, civil unrest and conflict around the world. 

But the story doesn’t have to end that way.

JEFFREY SACHS, DIRECTOR, THE EARTH INSTITUTE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: The irony is that while we’re on a path that is very dangerous, there is another path that is not only safe but is going to lead to higher quality of life. Better services, safer food supply, more resilience, nicer cities. We have to change from the old fossil fuel economy and the old way of doing things to smart cities, smart transport—moving to low-carbon energy systems. 

NARRATOR: We can cut rates of respiratory and heart diseases, like asthma and heart attack, if we use cleaner energy and reduce air pollution. We can tackle obesity and prevent road deaths by building sustainable cities and green spaces that encourage walking and cycling. We can improve public health and improve the cost of medical care by creating low-carbon, climate-resilient health systems. And we can create green growth in jobs that tackle poverty and reduce vulnerability to climate change. To make this a reality, we need to build partnerships for sustainable development and health across all sectors. Climate change is one of the greatest health threats we face, but together we can turn it into one of the greatest opportunities. To find out more, visit


Climate change and human health

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