Climate change and health
- Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
- Global warming since the 1970s had caused over 140,000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.
- Many of the major killers such as diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue are highly climate sensitive and are expected to worsen in the years ahead.
- Areas with weak health infrastructure – mostly in developing countries – will be the least able to cope without assistance to help them prepare and respond.
- Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases through better transport, food and energy-use choices can result in improved health.
- China is one of the countries most affected by climate change.
- The "National Assessment Report on Climate Change" points out that the climate in China has also undergone a significant change in the past 100 years, mirroring the trend of global climate change.
- In recent years, extreme weather events have become more common, with floods, heat waves, exceptional rainfall, greater amounts of snow – all harming health and society.
- The average surface air temperature in China has increased by 0.5℃～0.8℃.
- The main warmer areas are in the northwest, north and northeast.
- Winters are becoming significantly warmer..
- According to the China Meteorology Bureau, the winter in 2007 was the warmest since 1951.
Impact on health
- Research on the health impact from climate change in China is still at a primary stage, focusing mainly on heat-related diseases, vector borne diseases and infectious diseases.
- Changes in climate are likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of important vectorborne diseases and to alter their geographical range.
- Climatic conditions affect water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted through insects, snails or other cold-blooded animals. For example, climate change is projected to widen significantly the area of China where the snail-borne disease schistosomiasis occurs.
- The most important and urgent missions in China are to strengthen the awareness of the health impact on climate change at a national level, to develop health impact assessments of climate change, to carry out gap analysis and identify the priority research areas.
- In 2009, the World Health Assembly endorsed a new WHO workplan on climate change and health. This includes:
- Advocacy: to raise awareness that climate change is a fundamental threat to human health.
- Partnerships: to coordinate with partner agencies within the UN system, and ensure that health is properly represented on the climate change agenda.
- Science and evidence: to coordinate reviews of the scientific evidence on the links between climate change and health, and develop a global research agenda.
- Health system strengthening: to assist countries to assess their health vulnerabilities and build capacity to reduce health vulnerability to climate change