Why health is a climate matter

A climate-safe future means less disease and more well-being, especially for the young and the elderly, women and vulnerable groups.
Pedestrian with breathing mask

Healthy planet, healthy people

Moving to a low-carbon future will allow millions of people to enjoy a healthier and happier life, in regions near-by and across the world. Especially children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups will be more protected. Health care systems will be able to offer better care as they are not stressed by patients with illnesses or infectious diseases triggered by ever warmer weather or climate-induced pollution.

A ruined planet cannot sustain human lives in good health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.1

Dr. Margaret Chan,
Director-General, World Health Organization (2006–2017)

Children, women, the elderly and other vulnerable groups are most at risk from the effects of climate change.2  They suffer more when droughts, floods and heatwaves brought on by a warming planet lead to more ill-health, poverty and hunger. Cities trap heat and, therefore, heavily built-up regions are especially exposed. This presents a particular problem in places like Europe, where many residents are older or suffer from diabetes and diseases of the heart and lungs.3 Nine out of ten people today breathe in air that is dangerously polluted.4  Climate change also takes its toll on humans’ mental health, as people experience stress and anxiety about their future, or trauma when their livelihoods are affected by extreme weather events.5

Whether your focus is on health, food and farming, infrastructure, energy, or community-based projects, as a philanthropist or social investor, you can improve public health through climate action in many ways.

You can support initiatives to improve health care for patients suffering from climate-induced illnesses. You can support climate-friendly infrastructure projects that contribute to a healthier life in cities, such as parks and greener local environments or better insulated buildings which avoid energy-intensive air-conditioning. Or you can support attempts to reduce traffic pollution – through more public transport and more bicycle lanes or traffic limits for high-polluting vehicles.  

Strengthening the community and fostering physical and mental health is another avenue towards a more sustainable future. You can focus on issues such as nutrition and food security, or fund scientific research on how best to alleviate climate effects on mental health. You can invest in programmes that bring individuals and communities together and, thereby, help reduce stress and anxiety in the wake of climate change.