Category Archives: climate

Climate Change and Health Beyond 2015: The Sustainable Development Agenda

This blog is part of the Wikiprogress Environment Series
Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Outcome Document from the recent Rio+20 Summit, “The Future We Want”, recognises that health is both a precondition for, and an outcome of, sustainable development. Climate change affects health through a myriad of exposure pathways, each presenting simultaneously both challenges and opportunities for sustainable health and development.
Interventions targeting either adaptation or mitigation of climate change, therefore, can have multiple health and societal benefits – the key is to find root points of leverage where a single policy might have numerous beneficiaries.
The relationship between health and all three original (1992) Rio Conventions – on Climate Change, Biological Diversity, and Desertification was recently documented in “Our Planet, Our Health, Our Future”, a collaborative effort between the World Health Organization (WHO) and all three Rio Conventions. In particular, the report revealed both risks and interdependencies. Climate change will directly lead to net negative health impacts, including through extreme weather events, spread of vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, food security and malnutrition. Natural capital, such as biodiversity, underpins ecosystem services – upon which health and societal wellbeing depend – but are threatened by climate and land use change. Just a few measurable benefits that ecosystems provide mankind include flood protection, disease regulation, and water purification. Desertification leaves populations vulnerable to water quality degradation, water scarcity and droughts, decreases agro-ecosystem productivity and increases food scarcity/malnutrition.
If human society could advance from a carbon-intensive economy to a green economy, human health opportunities would abound. For example, reducing fossil fuel combustion might not only reduce the extent of climate change, but more immediately such intervention would improve air quality, and if done in the transportation sector, could potentially increase ‘active’ transport that subsequently would lower the risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases. This is just one policy example of how addressing climate change can both enhance sustainable development and save lives.
Sustainable development remains the central context of the post-2015 development agenda. Yet, at this juncture it is critical to acknowledge how health is inextricably linked to ecosystems and our earth’s climate; this awareness is especially salient in the UNFCCC process toward developing a set of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the centrality of health as both an input and outcome, and climate change as a cross-cutting issue, a new level of inter-sector awareness and collaboration is warranted, especially as revised targets and indicators are being drafted for the SDGs.
Furthermore, establishment of appropriate indicators will help ensure that interventions in any sector will lessen, rather than add to, the disease burden. WHO, in fact, is now strongly advocating a holistic “Health in All Policies” approach which accepts that population-wide health is determined by many sectors beyond solely health. The role of weather variability and health is obvious for thematic areas such as water and sanitation, food security and nutrition, and disaster management, as well as climate change specifically. Outcome indicators might include: annual mortality rates from climate-sensitive diseases (i.e. the sum of all vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition, and weather-related disasters etc.); household dietary diversity scores as an output indicator for food security; and percentage population with access to weather/climate-resilient infrastructure (such as water sources and hygienic sanitation facilities for example).
Health should also be a key consideration for other areas. Representative outcome indicators in the area of energy, for example, might include the percentage of households using only modern, low-emissions heating, cooking and lighting technologies that meet emission and safety standards; or measuring the burden of disease attributable to household air pollution could be another outcome indicator. Indicators for the reliability of energy supply to health facilities are also important. In jobs, healthy workforces are a precondition for sustainable development, and indicators such as the proportion of workplaces that comply with national occupational health and safety standards (an output indicator), or measuring occupational disease and injury rates (an outcome indicator) merit consideration.
Clearly the health of our human population depends on the healthy conditions across all societal sectors and natural systems. Climate change, now solidly tied to our  carbon-intensive economy, challenges all communities working on core elements of sustainable development. Human health has been relatively sidelined in the UN Framework Conventions, but now needs to be better interwoven into the process of defining the next set of global development goals.
Professor Jonathan Patz
This article first appeared on Outreach Magazine 


Environment Week in Review

Hi everyone and welcome to another Week in Review. This month we are focusing Environmentso today’s WIR includes a look back at World Environment Day, UNEP’s new report on food waste and a World Bank article on global sustainability. This article will also introduce Wikichild’s upcoming online consultation, partnered by the World Health Organization and Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children, on how child well-being should be measured in view of future development frameworks such as the Post-2015 agenda.

World Environment Day is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. This year’s celebration, hosted by Mongolia, had the theme of ‘Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Footprint’.  According to UNEP’s Reducing Food Loss and Waste report, which was launched on W.E.D, an estimated one third, or 1.3 billion tonnes, of all food produced ends up in the garbage of farmers, transporters, retailers and consumers alike. Make sure you look out for more environment awareness days this month including Global Wind Day and World Ocean’s Day.
This week the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction welcomed the emphasis that the Post-2015 committee is putting on combatting climate change. The Head of UNISDR, Margareta Wahlström referenced the recently published Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk, which highlights the economic and social costs of disasters and the impact they can have on the global population, particularly the poor.
This Saturday The governments of the UK and Brazil, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) will co-host a high-level international meeting, Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science on 8 June in central London. The event will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society to make ambitious financial and political commitments in a bid to reach millions of pregnant women and infants with the right nutrition at the right time, and reduce cases of stunting and deaths from severe acute malnutrition. The whole day will be webcast live from 8.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday 8 June 2013 on this website.
This week the World Bankpublished the ANS indicator for more than 200 countries in the Little Green Data Book, the World Bank’s annual compilation of environment data. Click hereto access highlights from the report.
The Living Planet Index is one of the longest-running measures of the trends in the state of global biodiversity and reflects changes in the health of the planet’s ecosystems by tracking trends in populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Last year’s report provides a comprehensive overview of the cumulative pressure we’re putting on the planet, and the consequent decline in the health of the forests, rivers and oceans that make our lives possible.
Finally, between the 19th of June and the 2nd of July, Wikichild, HBSCand the W.H.Oare running an online consultation on how child well-being should be measured in view of future development frameworks. The discussion will be launched at HBSC’s 30thanniversary conference so make sure you tune in and add your comment to what should be a fascinating conversation! Follow #childwellbeing on Twitter for updates.  
We hope you have enjoyed this Week in Review and look forward to bringing you more Environmentupdates in the coming weeks.
Wikichild Coordinator