IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

Executive summary

Climate change currently contributes to the global burden of disease and premature deaths (very high confidence).

Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise and more frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air and food quality and changes in ecosystems, agriculture, industry and settlements and the economy. At this early stage the effects are small but are projected to progressively increase in all countries and regions. [8.4.1]

Emerging evidence of climate change effects on human health shows that climate change has:

  • altered the distribution of some infectious disease vectors (medium confidence) [8.2.8];
  • altered the seasonal distribution of some allergenic pollen species (high confidence) [8.2.7];
  • increased heatwave-related deaths (medium confidence) [8.2.1].

Projected trends in climate-change-related exposures of importance to human health will:

  • increase malnutrition and consequent disorders, including those relating to child growth and development (high confidence) [8.2.3, 8.4.1];
  • increase the number of people suffering from death, disease and injury from heatwaves, floods, storms, fires and droughts (high confidence) [8.2.2, 8.4.1];
  • continue to change the range of some infectious disease vectors (high confidence) [8.2, 8.4];
  • have mixed effects on malaria; in some places the geographical range will contract, elsewhere the geographical range will expand and the transmission season may be changed (very high confidence) [];
  • increase the burden of diarrhoeal diseases (medium confidence) [8.2, 8.4];
  • increase cardio-respiratory morbidity and mortality associated with ground-level ozone (high confidence) [8.2.6,];
  • increase the number of people at risk of dengue (low confidence) [8.2.8, 8.4.1];
  • bring some benefits to health, including fewer deaths from cold, although it is expected that these will be outweighed by the negative effects of rising temperatures worldwide, especially in developing countries (high confidence) [8.2.1, 8.4.1].

Adaptive capacity needs to be improved everywhere; impacts of recent hurricanes and heatwaves show that even high-income countries are not well prepared to cope with extreme weather events (high confidence). [8.2.1, 8.2.2]

Adverse health impacts will be greatest in low-income countries. Those at greater risk include, in all countries, the urban poor, the elderly and children, traditional societies, subsistence farmers, and coastal populations (high confidence). [8.1.1, 8.4.2,, 8.7]

Economic development is an important component of adaptation, but on its own will not insulate the world’s population from disease and injury due to climate change (very high confidence).

Critically important will be the manner in which economic growth occurs, the distribution of the benefits of growth, and factors that directly shape the health of populations, such as education, health care, and public-health infrastructure. [8.3.2]