Tackling the twin threats of pandemics and climate change: an agenda for action

Ending fossil fuel dependence is a prerequisite for a healthier world and future generations. The direct health impact of climate change driven by fossil fuel emissions is already devastating. The triple planetary pollution crisis, biodiversity loss, and climate change exacerbate the impact. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year. World leaders are taking actions to address climate change. Given the interconnectedness nature of climate change on health, and growing pandemics effecting the most vulnerable communities, there is no better time than now, to recognize “health as the human face of climate change”, and, crucially to set out clear targets to tackle these issues systematically and underscoring the imperative for collective action.
Governments must also adapt to a warming world by investing in climate- and pandemic-resilient health systems and supply chains —not only at the domestic level but also regionally and globally.
There are many ways in which health and climate interweave. There is no doubt that Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change. Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of our ecosystems, accelerating the spread of diseases, and reshaping the trajectory of Africa’s future.
First, climate change is making future pandemics more likely due to the increasing frequency, geographic spread, and severity of infectious diseases. Zoonotic diseases comprise more than 60% of new infectious diseases — and three-quarters of emerging pandemic threats to humans. There has been a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks in Africa in the decade from 2012-2022 compared to the previous decade; a significant proportion (32%) have been zoonotic diseases. A modelling study predicts that by 2070, there will be increased cross-species viral transmission risk with geographical range shifts for 3,139 mammal species.

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