Health and Climate Change

The environment influences human health in many ways — through exposures to physical, chemical and biological risk factors, and through related changes in behavior in response to those factors. According to the WHO, 13 million deaths annually are due to preventable environmental causes. Mitigating environmental risk could save as many as four million lives a year in children alone, mostly in developing countries.


“Climate change will affect, in profoundly adverse ways, some of the most fundamental determinants of health: food, air and water. The warming of the planet will be gradual, but the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as intense storms, heat waves, droughts and floods, will be abrupt and the consequences will be acutely felt. The earliest and most severe threats are to developing countries, with negative implications for the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals and for health equity. It is therefore essential to formulate a clear response in order to protect human health and ensure that it is placed at the centre of the climate debate.” WHO, report by the secretariat, January 2009

In May 2009, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution on health protection from climate change, signaling a much higher level of engagement from the health sector. The resolution draws attention to the further strengthening of the evidence for human-induced climate change, and consequent risks to global health, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and health equity.

See WHO workplan on climate change and health

WMA Policy & Action

The WMA is committed to ensuring that the health sector is fully integrated in the current global debates and actions on climate change and to engaging physicians further for the protection of health from climate change.

At its annual General Assembly in New Delhi, India (17 October 2009), the WMA approved the Delhi Declaration setting out an action plan to bring health to the forefront of the climate change debate and to mitigate the serious health risks facing the world. WMA leaders insist that physicians must be more involved in the development of policies to protect the health of all their patients.

The WMA follows the governmental talks in the context of the United Nations climate change negotiations. Physicians are concerned that the negotiations do not take fully into consideration the well-evidenced impact of climate change on health as well as  the public health benefits of climate change mitigation activities. Based on the skills, experience and knowledge of their members, medical associations act to make health an inherent component of governmental talks in the context of the UN climate change process.

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