Hot topics

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CLIMATE AND HEALTH

Climate change is increasing the variability and unpredictability of weather-related events. This in turn increases peoples’ vulnerability to events that can threaten their health and lives.

Climate change is already threatening peoples’ health and lives a variety of ways. The main threats arise from unpredictable changes in weather patterns that increase the likelihood of heat waves, air pollution extent, storms and flooding, and malnutrition. Rising global surface temperatures that are driven by climate change make weather patterns less predictable. This results in an increased number of extreme weather events such as heat waves and freezes. Mortality rates are higher with heat waves. While these temperatures are extreme deviations from the norm, it is not that they are necessarily weather conditions that people cannot survive. Rather, it is that we are unprepared for them and therefore do not develop the appropriate adaptation methods. An increased frequency of heat waves also increases the likelihood of air pollutants that will negatively affect human health. Heat waves that lead to forest fires in rural areas not only impact the agriculture in the area, but increase air pollutant levels. Heat stress can also lead to greater formation of ozone and volatile organic compounds in urban areas. So both rural and urban areas are vulnerable to increased respiratory and mortality risks. Other extreme weather events, such as storms, cyclones and floods are also predicted to increase in frequency. These not only increase mortality in and of themselves, but the resultant excesses of water can lead to cross-contamination and consequently the spread of waterborne diseases, including cholera, typhoid and dysentery.

This is a particular threat in crowded urban areas. The increased unpredictability of rainfall patterns that triggers increased flooding also threatens sustainable agricultural yields. This not only impacts the access and affordability of food globally, but particularly threatens the poorest communities who depend on subsistence agriculture to survive. In a similar line, sea-level rise poses a risk to coastal communities who depend on it for their livelihoods. Sea-level rise will also force coastal communities to relocate further inland, increasing population density and therefore sanitation and quality of life in other locations, particularly urban areas.

OBJECTIVE
The objective of this ICCG Hot Topic is to provide a platform for the initiatives being developed to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change on human health. The ICCG is carrying out a number of initiatives that aim to improve our understanding of the nexus between climate change and human health. The main focus of this work is on the economic implications. Nevertheless, this platform welcomes all initiatives that address the life-threatening impacts of climate change.
Below is a list of actions taken by ICCG in the field of Climate & Health studies, and a list of other sources relevant for the hot topic.

Arctic, Energy Poverty and Health in the Second Volume of IPCC’s AR5 F. Alice, Arctic, Energy Poverty and Health in the Second Volume of IPCC’s AR5, ICCG Reflection, April 2014.
Climate Change, Influencing the Health of Urban Populations S. Dekker, Climate Change, Influencing the Health of Urban Populations, ICCG Reflection, March 2014.
Climate Change and Social Determinants of Health: Innovating Climate Policy S. Dekker, Climate Change and Social Determinants of Health: Innovating Climate Policy, ICCG Reflection, February 2014.
Climate change: what are the health risks? C. Carraro, Climate change: what are the health risks?, article published on the ICCG Director’s Blog, January 27th, 2014.
Climate Change and Health: Impacts, Costs and Adaptation Strategies V. Barbi, Climate Change and Health: Impacts, Costs and Adaptation Strategies, ICCG Reflection, November 2013.
Climate Change and Health Stephanie Calupka, Climate Change and Health, 2014
Climate change and health costs of air emissions from biofuels and gasoline J. Hill, S. Polasky, E. Nelson, D. Tilman, H. Huo, L. Ludwig, J. Neumann, H. Zheng and D. Bonta, Climate change and health costs of air emissions from biofuels and gasoline, 2009
Climate change and human health – risks and responses A. Mc.Michael, D. Campbell-Lendrum, C. Corvalan, K Ebi, A. Githeko, J. Scheraga and A. Woodward, Climate change and human health – risks and responses, 2003
Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability IPCC Working Group II Contribution to AR5, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, 2014
Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health A. Mc.Michael, J. Powles, C. Butler and R. Uauy, Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health, 2007