National Centre for
Epidemiology and Population Health
The Australian National University
Global Warming and Climate Change:
Why the Health Sector Should be Engaged
SEARO Office, New Delhi, March 2008
Should the Health Sector Engage?
1. Health risks are real … and are increasing.
2. Extreme weather events likely to increase: Could
overwhelm health sector’s capacity.
3. CC jeopardises other ongoing health gains – esp.
in low-income/vulnerable populations
(e.g. Millennium Devt Goals; HIV/AIDS pandemic; etc.)
4. Health sector has, generally, been slow to
recognise and respond to risk. Consequently:
Inadequate capacity-building (research, prevention, policy)
Deficient contact/engagement with other sectors
5. Society has been slow to understand that threat to
health is the most serious, fundamental, risk.
Population health is ultimate marker of ‘sustainability’
Climate Change: Health Impacts
and Policy Responses
• Food yields
• Other materials
• Physical envtl. safety
• Microbial patterns
• Cultural assets
Impacts on human
• economic productivity
• social stability
• culture, institutions
• economic activity
pressure on environment
Overview of Recent CC Science
Together, the reported GCM model runs for the 6 IPCC
emissions scenarios forecast, for 2100, increases in
temperature (central estimate per scenario) of 1.4-5.8 o
Most of the uncertainty reflects unknowable human futures
(the scenarios); the rest is due to model uncertainties.
A further ~0.7 o
C is ‘committed’ (on top of the 0.6o
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (2007) already looks
conservative. Recent studies indicate accelerating change.
Political discourse in high-income countries is now starting
to acknowledge need for 80+% reduction in emissions
Climate Change: Faster
than expected in 1990s
IPCC 4 (2007) was limited to
science published by early
Subsequent research shows
increasing rates of:
Global GHG emissions
3.3% p.a. in 2000s, vs 1.3% p.a.
especially in polar regions
Ice melt (Arctic: 40% loss since
1980, accelerating 2006-07)
Av Surface Temp
Sea Level Rise (cm)
Dashed lines =
Rahmstorf, Church, et
al., Science 2007
Solid lines =
1975 1985 1995 2005
Water: 75-250m Africans may face water-shortage by 2020.
Rain-fed agriculture could decline by 50% in
some African countries by 2020.
Crop yields could:
increase by 20% in some parts of Southeast Asia … but
decrease by up to 30% in Central/South Asia.
Glaciers and snow cover: Expected to decline, reducing
supply of melt water to major regions, cities.
Species: 20-30% of all plant and animal species face
increased risk of extinction if 1.5-2.5 o
Scientific literature review of >29,000 studies of physical and biological changes in
natural world: 89% consistent with accompanying warming.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
WkGp2 Report (2007): Some Key Findings