Reducing Health Regrets in a Changing Climate
Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their espective obligations on . . . the right to health.
– Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed by 195 countries on 12 December 2015
There is now overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and with it comes a range of social issues—unprecedented in scale—that must be addressed. Key among these issues are the health consequences of climate change.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states with “very high confidence” that “the health of human populations is sensitive to shifts in weather patterns and other aspects of climate change” due to direct effects—such as changes in temperature and precipitation or occurrence of heat waves, floods, droughts, and fires—as well as indirect effects—through crop failures, shifting patterns of disease vectors, or displacement of populations. A recent World Health Organization report suggests that globally climate change could cause an additional 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, not taking into account factors such as the effects of economic damage, major heat wave events, river flooding, water scarcity, or human conflict. A large portion of these estimated additional deaths are associated with infectious diseases—specifically malaria (60 000 annual deaths) and diarrhea (48 000 annual deaths)