IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Global burden of disease study

The World Health Organization conducted a regional and global comparative risk assessment to quantify the amount of premature morbidity and mortality due to a range of risk factors, including climate change, and to estimate the benefit of interventions to remove or reduce these risk factors. In the year 2000, climate change is estimated to have caused the loss of over 150,000 lives and 5,500,000 DALYs (0.3% of deaths and 0.4% of DALYs, respectively) (Campbell-Lendrum et al., 2003; Ezzati et al., 2004; McMichael, 2004). The assessment also addressed how much of the future burden of climate change could be avoided by stabilising greenhouse gas emissions (Campbell-Lendrum et al., 2003). The health outcomes included were chosen based on known sensitivity to climate variation, predicted future importance, and availability of quantitative global models (or the feasibility of constructing them):

  • episodes of diarrhoeal disease,
  • cases of Plasmodium falciparum malaria,
  • fatal accidental injuries in coastal floods and inland floods/landslides,
  • the non-availability of recommended daily calorie intake (as an indicator for the prevalence of malnutrition).

Limited adjustments for adaptation were included in the estimates.

The projected relative risks attributable to climate change in 2030 vary by health outcome and region, and are largely negative, with most of the projected disease burden being due to increases in diarrhoeal disease and malnutrition, primarily in low-income populations already experiencing a large burden of disease (Campbell-Lendrum et al., 2003; McMichael, 2004). Absolute disease burdens depend on assumptions of population growth, future baseline disease incidence and the extent of adaptation.

The analyses suggest that climate change will bring some health benefits, such as lower cold-related mortality and greater crop yields in temperate zones, but these benefits will be greatly outweighed by increased rates of other diseases, particularly infectious diseases and malnutrition in low-income countries. A proportional increase in cardiovascular disease mortality attributable to climate extremes is projected in tropical regions, and a small benefit in temperate regions. Climate change is projected to increase the burden of diarrhoeal diseases in low-income regions by approximately 2 to 5% in 2020. Countries with an annual GDP per capita of US$6,000 or more are assumed to have no additional risk of diarrhoea. Coastal flooding is projected to result in a large proportional mortality increase under unmitigated emissions; however, this is applied to a low burden of disease, so the aggregate impact is small. The relative risk is projected to increase as much in high- as in low-income countries. Large changes are projected in the risk of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in countries at the edge of the current distribution, with relative changes being much smaller in areas that are currently highly endemic for malaria (McMichael et al., 2004; Haines et al., 2006).