A new report entitled The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment has been formally unveiled at the White House on Monday the 4th April 2016. The findings aim to support decision making at all levels in preparing for and managing the multifaceted health risks posed by a warming planet.
The report also offers evidence that can be used to raise climate ambition, strengthening a line of work on climate and health that has received increasing political attention in the past years. For instance, Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) was co-initiated by the U.S. in 2012, for which global negative health effects of air pollution were a major motivation.
The report, released by the Obama administration, illustrates the serious public health threats posed by climate change today and in the future, especially to vulnerable groups described by the report as populations of concern. Some of the factors cited in the report are: extreme summer heat which can increase the number of premature deaths, poor air quality which can affect the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems, risks of increased water-related illnesses and the risks posed by increased extreme weather events.
Last year, several actors highlighted the need to act on climate change to safeguard public health, often pointing out significant health benefits of emission mitigation. These actors include, notably, the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change (2015) and the World Health Organisation (2015). Specifically, exposure to air pollution causes 8 million deaths annually, as stated in a resolution by the World Health Assembly of 26 May 2015. Health impacts related to air pollution are estimated at an average of 4 % of the GDP for the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
According to U.S. officials, the research conducted by 100 experts for the Climate and Health Assessment signifies, to date, the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the health impacts of climate change within the U.S. The report expands upon the 2014 National Climate Assessment. The U.S. Government’s Fact Sheet on the assessment also points towards climate action taken by the Obama administration, for example the Clean Power Plan that has caused such domestic controversy.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
In January 2020, the German Federal Foreign Office launched Green Central Asia, a regional initiative on climate and security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The aim of the initiative is to support a dialogue in the region on climate change and associated risks in order to foster regional integration between the six countries involved.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.