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The International Response to Climate Change: An Agenda for Global Health

Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 302, p. 1218-1220, 2009

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications Research Paper No. 1489524

5 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009  

Lindsay F. Wiley

American University - Washington, College of Law

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law

Date Written: October 15, 2009

Abstract

As the international community negotiates a successor to the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), there is new reason to hope that meaningful action might be taken to prevent devastating climate change. Even the more ambitious mitigation targets currently under negotiation, however, will not be sufficient to avoid a profound effect on the public's health in coming decades, with the world's poorest, most vulnerable populations bearing the disproportionate burden. The influence of historic and current emissions will be so substantial that it is imperative to reduce global emissions while at the same time preparing for the effects. Recently, the UNFCCC has begun to turn its attention to adaptation-changes to human systems to ameliorate the consequences of climate change. This Commentary proposes a new agenda for mitigation as well as adaptation approaches that emphasize the considerable health effects of climate change, which include increasingly intense and more frequent natural disasters, potential increases in vector-, food-, and water-borne infectious disease, and exacerbation of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The effects of climate change will be experienced in every region but will disproportionately burden the global poor, exacerbating global health disparities and challenging the international community to address the inevitable questions of global social justice. Three key recommendations are proposed: (1) focus mitigation targets on broader health impacts, rather than framing climate change as a coastal issue; (2) incorporate land-use and agricultural approaches to mitigation alongside measures in the energy and transportation sectors to take advantage of co-benefits for health; and (3) fully fund adaptation projects as a global priority with an emphasis on strengthening health systems.

Keywords: climate change, health, adaptation

JEL Classification: I18

Suggested Citation

Wiley, Lindsay F. and Gostin, Lawrence O., The International Response to Climate Change: An Agenda for Global Health (October 15, 2009). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications Research Paper No. 1489524. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1489524

Lindsay Freeman Wiley (Contact Author)

American University - Washington, College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.wcl.american.edu/faculty/wiley/

Lawrence O. Gostin

Georgetown University - Law Center - O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9038 (Phone)
202-662-9055 (Fax)

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