Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment Contraction and convergence

Healthy response to climate change

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 08 June 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:1385

Climate change and sustainable development

Climate change is a new and rapidly developing topic of scientific
inquiry and health risk assessment. A change in world climate would have
wide-ranging, mostly adverse; consequences for human health and
historically, periods of accelerated social transition have often been
accompanied by the reemergence of infectious diseases (1). For several
decades now we have been acutely aware of the increasingly intensifying
effect that environmental degradation has on human health. Medical
community is becoming more and more concerned about the potential impact
of climate change on public health.(2) Epidemiological studies and public
health data have identified how thermal stresses (including heat waves)
and weather disasters can result in serious illness, injuries and death.
(3, 4)

The more the health impact of social and economic policies is
recognized, the more obvious the importance of sustainable development
will become. (4) By adopting a sustainable development philosophy in our
personal and work lives, we could slow and prevent climate change. We need
to pay more attention to the concept and philosophy of sustainable
development as it is possibly the most important concept to emerge at the
end of 20th century. Recognizing the wide-ranging potential consequences
of climate change for our health and future of our children can greatly
strengthen our commitments to the sustainable development. (5) The concept
of sustainable development should be widely applied to guide and focus our
economic and social development policy-making process throughout the

We need to encourage more sustainable global policies similar to
European Union (EU) plan reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in line
with a global 2°C target. European Union is investing in infrastructure,
technologies to achieve this targets and social policies. Sweden has
recently announced policy of non-reliance on oil by 2020. (6)


(1) Desapriya E.B., Climate change and health. CMAJ 2005; 16;

(2). Stott R., Healthy response to climate change. BMJ. 2006; 10;

(3). McMichael A.J., Haines A., Global climate change: the potential
effects on health. BMJ 1997;315:805-9

(4) Epstein P.R., Emerging diseases and ecosystem instability: new
threats to public health. Am J Public Health 1995;85(2):168-72

(5). Waterson, T., Lenton, S.,, Public health: Sustainable
development, human induced global climate change, and the health of
children. Arch. Dis. Child. 2000;82:95-97.

(6). Woodruff R.E., McMichael A.J., Hales S., Action on climate
change: no time to delay Med J Aust. 2006;5;184(11):539-40.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 June 2006
Ediriweera Desapriya
Research Associate
Dr. Ian Pike, Dr. Sayed Subzwari
Department of Pediatrics, Centre for Community Child Health Research 4480 Oak Street V6H 3V4