On 9 August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an eagerly anticipated landmark report on the impacts of global warming. The report highlights evidence asserting that changes to our climate have unequivocally been caused by human activity and it paints a stark global picture should temperatures rise by 1.5°C or more above pre-industrial temperatures – with some climactic changes, such as the loss of entire ecosystems, being irreversible.
A core theme of the report is the negative impact rising temperatures will have on human health globally. With regard to vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue, the report indicates that changes in climatic conditions will impact the geographic range, along with the intensity and seasonality of transmission and will change and increase global disease burdens; concerns that we highlighted in our position statement last year.
In line with the recommendations of the IPCC, Malaria Consortium believes that renewed efforts are needed to make health systems more resilient, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the effects of global warming and climate change are already prevalent and are likely to be most destructive in the future. We support a systems-wide approach that builds countries’ capacities to manage the impacts of climate-related health risks and embed appropriate responses into broader health systems strengthening. Our evidence and experience also highlight the critical role of effective surveillance in helping to reduce disease burden, in particular malaria. Given malaria is one of the most climate-sensitive vector-borne diseases, we believe that integrating real-time meteorological data into malaria surveillance systems is necessary to track and anticipate how climatic changes may influence disease exposure and transmission and thus enable health services, as long as they are properly financed, to effectively mitigate and manage these risks.
Dr James Tibenderana, our Global Technical Director, echoes the importance of the IPCC recommendations, “Global warming is an emerging threat to the elimination of malaria and other vector borne diseases. The IPCC Special report highlights the collective responsibilities that we all have towards a coordinated global response for climate action.”
Malaria Consortium is already taking positive steps to build climate resilience into all of our work – from research, to surveillance and response, to community engagement. Until the world can collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the threats posed by global warming will only become more severe, so it is imperative that countries and others working in global health cooperate to mitigate climate-related risks as best they can, in support of the broader, global effort.
You can learn more about Malaria Consortium’s view on climate in our position statement: Adapting to minimise the health impacts of climatic changes