September 16, 2019

Climate Change and Infectious Disease

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ECOSOC: World Health Organization

Topic: Climate Change and Infectious Disease

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change defines climate change as a change in climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, published in 2021, has found that each of the last four decades has been successively warmer than any decade that preceded it since 1850. Infectious diseases are defined by the World Health Organization International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems as diseases generally recognized as communicable or transmissible.

The World Health Organization, in resolution WHA61.19 passed in May of 2008, noted that the net global effect of projected climate change on human health is expected to be negative, putting particular focus on the damage climate change has caused and potentially will cause on global health infrastructure as well as the ability of health systems to deal with arising challenges. The World Health Organization has not recognized the link between climate change and infectious diseases in a formal resolution, however, the effects climate change has on the prevalence and severity of infectious diseases is well-documented. It is noted in a report published by the World Health Organization in 2003 titled Climate Change and Human Health that elements of climate change such as increasing temperatures, increasing humidity, and idealized climates for disease spreading vectors such as mosquitoes will all worsen the effects of infectious diseases, both in the near-term and the long-term. Many infectious diseases, such as Encephalitis and Malaria, have likely had their spread contributed to by climatic factors. Climate change may exacerbate current diseases, lead to the rise of new diseases, and even possibly reactivate long-dormant diseases frozen in the arctic permafrost.

With many of the effects climate change bears on infectious diseases being felt today, the World Health Organization has reason to act at the current moment. Consider the effects climate change has on health infrastructure and the ability to provide care, the extent to which climate change affects the prevalence and severity of infectious diseases, the extent to which the exacerbation of infectious diseases ought to be addressed, and whether to address the causes of climate change or merely its effects. Regardless of the sorts of solutions to some of the challenges faced in the present day, it is important that the World Health Organization recognizes the significant connections between the spread of disease and climate change.

Useful Links:

Climate Change and Human Health: Risks and Responses:

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

World Health Assembly resolution WHA61.19:

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