Climate change

deaths from climate change

Directory of resources

The directory provides links to web-accessible resources in categories of relevance to policymaking. Links to climate change portals of UNEP/WHO and other UN agencies are in Section 9. Selected links to other organizations, e.g. academic/research institutes, government and civil society are in Section 10.

Policy brief

Since 1988, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reviewed scientific research, and provided governments with summaries and advice on climate problems. In its most recent report, the IPCC concludes that the average temperature of the earth's surface has risen by 0.6 °C since the late 1800s. It is expected to increase by another 1.4–5.8 °C by the year 2100 – a rapid and profound change. Even if the minimum predicted increase takes place, it will be larger than any century-long trend in the last 10 000 years. The principal reason for the global increase in temperatures is a century and a half of industrialization, with the burning of ever-greater quantities of oil, gasoline, and coal; the cutting of forests; and use of certain farming methods.

Climatic changes already are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually.

That estimate includes deaths as a result of extreme weather conditions, which may be occurring with increased frequency. Changes in temperature and rainfall conditions also may influence transmission patterns for many diseases, including water-related diseases, such as diarrhoea, and vector-borne infections, including malaria. Finally, climate change may affect patterns of food production, which in turn can have health impacts in terms of rates of malnutrition. There is further evidence that unmitigated greenhouse gas emissions would increase disease burdens in the coming decades. The risks are concentrated in the poorest populations, who have contributed the least to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures, was developed by governments as an addition to the treaty. This protocol came into force on 16 February 2005. The Kyoto Protocol is signed by 128 nations, and commits the participating industrialized countries to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by over 5% below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012.

In addition to addressing the root causes of climate change, it is also important to take action to adapt to a changing climate. This includes actions that immediately improve the health of the poorest communities and also to reduce their vulnerability to climate change effects in the future.