• Introduction

    Welcome to this module, which covers some of the Public Health aspects of climate change and its impact on populations.
    This course, open to everyone, aims to inform about the dangers of climate change to Public Health and spur us to action. Please share with others.

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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

    A few facts first: 

    As the Global Climate and Health Alliance has said:
    "Climate change poses an urgent threat to human health, and the impacts are already being felt around the world. Without transformative system change, they will become dramatically worse, particularly in the poorest regions - which have contributed least to the causes of climate change.
    The health sector everywhere needs to play a central role in addressing climate change--the greatest health threat of the 21st century. We must reduce healthcare's climate footprint, make our health systems more resilient, and most importantly advocate for a fundamental shift in energy, transport and agriculture policies. Our task is to end our dependency on fossil fuels, a move that can help tackle both climate change and the rise in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and asthma."

    The Lancet has called climate change "the biggest global health threat of the 21st century” and in its 2015 Commission on Climate Change and Health, while commenting that "The implications of climate change for a global population of 9 billion people threatens to undermine the last half century of gains in development and global health. The direct effects of climate change include increased heat stress, floods, drought, and increased frequency of intense storms, with the indirect threatening population health through adverse changes in air pollution, the spread of disease vectors, food insecurity and under-nutrition, displacement, and mental ill health" also says "The central finding from the Commission's work is that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century."

    You might want to follow the Lancet Countdown: Tracking the connections between public health and climate change. The Lancet 2020 countdown report is very easy to explore and includes: "With the global average temperature having risen to 1·2°C more than that in preindustrial times, the indicators contained in the 2020 report provide insights into the health impacts of climate change today and in the future. Extremes of heat affect vulnerable populations the most, with some 296 000 deaths occurring as a result of high temperatures in 2018 (indicator 1.1.3).

    The climate suitability for the transmission of a range of infectious diseases—dengue fever, malaria, and those caused by Vibrio bacteria—has risen across the world (indicator 1.3.1). At the same time, crop yield potential has fallen for each of the major crops tracked, with dire consequences anticipated for food-insecure populations (indicator 1.4.1)."

    This short video accompanies the 2020 Lancet report and is also very informative:

    You might also like to read the current issue of the Lancet Planetary Health. Planetary health "aims not only to investigate the effects of environmental change on human health, but also to study the political, economic, and social systems that govern those effects."

    From the World Health Organisation:

    The US Environmental Protection Agency has summarised Climate Impacts on Global Issues.  This is a key resource to explore at the start of this course. The key points are: 

    • Countries around the world will likely face climate change impacts that affect a wide variety of sectors, from water resources to human health to ecosystems.
    • Impacts will vary by region and by population.
    • Many people in developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change impacts than people in developed countries.
    • Impacts across the globe can have national security implications for the United States and other nations.

    Ways to navigate the course: Click on the blue 'hyperlinks' to take you to read a resource.

    This course is for self study, although we have posted some Reflections as discussion questions to get you thinking -  you can post to these if you wish. There is a Blog menu, so please do add any comments you may have in the Blog menu, and read and respond to the comments of others. From time to time, we will offer a discussion of each of the 5 Topics, facilitated by experts in the field.

    There is a quizz to allow you to review your understanding of some of the concepts covered. You can earn a Certificate of Completion if you view each of the Resources pages in each Topic and pass the quizz (see Topic 5 at the end).

    The course was prepared by Professor Dick Heller, with input from Professors Peter Sainsbury and Lynne Madden as well as Dr John Van Der Kallen.