Climate Change and Epidemics 2023 Report released at COP28

On the first ever Health Day at a COP, a new report on climate change and epidemics was released. This report, which was compiled by over one hundred scientists and policy makers, highlights how climate change is fuelling new epidemics across the world, particularly in countries from the Global South.

Dr. Jean Kaseya, Director General of the Africa Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) with Prof. Tulio de Oliveira at the launch of the Climate Change and Epidemics 2023 report at COP28 in Dubai, 3 December 2023

While countries in the Global South contribute less than 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, they are likely to suffer the largest health impacts from climate change. Not only are these countries more at risk of climate disasters and harm, but they also have less adaptive capacity and preparedness to respond to these threats, making them highly vulnerable (low preparedness vs climate risk).

According to the authors of the report, the response to climate change should be used as an opportunity to build capacity to protect and support health, especially in underserved and underrepresented communities. As responsible policymakers, it is imperative that we acknowledge this reality and take swift, decisive action to mitigate the impending public health crisis.

The report was compiled by members of the CLIMADE (Climate Amplified Diseases & Epidemics) consortium. CLIMADE brings together leading global scientists focused on bridging knowledge gaps, improving surveillance tools and expanding adequate interventions to decrease the impact of diseases and epidemics amplified by climate change.

The CLIMADE consortium is co-led by Prof Tulio de Oliveira from South Africa, who was at the forefront of the genomic surveillance activities during the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa and led the discovery of the Omicron variant. 'As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, we are investing our time and funds to fight other epidemics amplified by climate change. In the last six months, the CLIMADE consortium has responded with quick characterisation of multiple epidemics, including the explosive Cholera outbreaks in Africa and Haiti, Dengue, Chikungunya and Rift Valley and Yellow Fever viruses in multiple South American, South Asian and African countries,' comments De Oliveira. 'The CLIMADE consortium brings together many of the leading scientific and public health groups worldwide, capable of decisively and rapidly responding to new epidemics amplified by climate change'.

The exacerbation of infectious diseases due to climate hazards can be attributed to both direct and indirect factors. The three main factors include: 1) Gradual temperature rise: The slow but relentless increase in global temperatures creates a conducive environment for disease vectors such as mosquitoes, rodents, and ticks to proliferate; 2) Extreme events: Sudden and more frequent occurrences of extreme events, such as floods, further compound the problem and 3) Climate Migration: Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns can also impact food and water availability and impact livelihoods.

'Extreme temperatures, droughts, floods and cyclones cause death directly and indirectly through outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and dengue fever that are being witnessed in 16 and 7 African countries respectively. The CLIMADE consortium of global scientists is acting now by developing surveillance tools, knowledge and adequate interventions in order to address climate hazards,' says Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi from the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa.

The Climate Change and Epidemics 2023 report also identifies the main actions that can be taken to decrease epidemics. The report urges governments, academic institutions, scientists, public health officials, private sector industries and health organisations to collectively address the urgent and interconnected challenges of climate-amplified diseases and epidemics through their diverse expertise, and resources.

Download the Climate and Epidemics 2023 Synthesis Report

News date: 2023-12-03