Issue 9 | January 2009
Health and Climate Change
***Articles reviewed and updated in October 2014***
The Earth’s climate is changing. In fact, it has always been changing. What is different now is the speed of change and the main cause of change – human activities. This issue asks: What are the biggest threats to human health? Who will suffer as the climate changes? What can be done to minimise harm? And how do we cope with uncertainty?
Browse through the individual articles, check out our image galleries and poster, and consider our lesson ideas, which include an interactive game. This issue was first published in 2009; in 2014, all of the individual resources were reviewed and updated for accuracy and currency. Please do note, however, that the PDF of the original 2009 issue has not been updated from its original form.
Catch up on climate change
Interested in climate change but not sure where to start? Our primer will help you understand the basics
The factors behind climate change are complex, dynamic and interlinked
Climate change brings with it an increase in malnutrition, mental health conditions, infectious disease spread and even death
Are you interested in studying climate change? There are many different scientific disciplines that analyse the subject
Organisms – including humans – are adapted to a narrow range of temperatures
Our climate is changing; with greenhouse gas emissions still rising, the planet is poised to undergo a profound change
In the 1970s James Lovelock developed the idea that Earth can be seen as a giant self-regulating organism – the Gaia hypothesis
Documented evidence of the biological impact of climate change
Past, present and future
How do we know what the Earth’s climate was like in the past?
How do we know what is going to happen next to the Earth – and to humans?
We can measure things now, and infer what the past was like, but how do we predict what will happen next?
The challenge is to understand how the key factors affecting health will be altered by climate change
Modelling of tick ecology can pinpoint areas at risk of tick-borne diseases
How can we decide what to do when the future is unclear?
Human psychology may be an obstacle to quick action when it comes to climate change
Climate change and people
What do hotter temperatures mean for everyday life?
Agriculture: good news for some, bad news for most
Rising sea levels are already threatening low-lying countries, as well as coastal regions
Will climate change promote the spread of malaria?
Climate change promises to bring more turbulent weather
What is cholera, and how is it affected by climate change?
How will communities or countries cope with climate change?
Could changing our diet help?
Have changes in climate had a hand in the collapse of civilisations?
Coastal communities are likely to be hard hit by climate change
How will populations respond to climate change?
How climate change could affect the future of the food we eat
Poor farmers will bear the brunt of climate change
With its extensive infrastructure and resources, the West is better placed to withstand climate change – but it will not escape unscathed
More people now live in cities than in rural areas
These beautiful structures protect coastal regions and provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people
Climate change affects people’s mental as well as physical health
An age of uncertainty
Raging arguments over climate change? Not among the experts…
Who are the main factions in the debate and what do they believe?
Have the media created a spurious debate about climate change?
Climate change activists and sceptics both attempt to use the media to promote their point of view
What happens when science, the public and politics meet?
Uncertainty extends to the health impacts of climate change
Compared with climate modelling, health impact modelling is in its infancy
Climate change has seen parallel scientific and political processes
What is climate change’s impact on our bank balance?
Can science cope with those who rock the boat?
How might public authorities protect people’s health in the future?
We will need to adapt to cope with the impact of climate change – but is there more we can do?
What does it take to get people working together?
Many changes aimed at tackling climate change will bring extra benefits
How do we do it?
How likely is it that greenhouse gas emissions will be curbed?
Activities and lesson ideas
Explore the effects of climate change on the world’s population
Download a copy of our poster, which explores the connections between carbon cycle and climate change
This topic stimulates interdisciplinary interest and much debate across the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
Real Voices interviews
Meet Geoff, who gives his perspective on climate change from the West Midlands
Meet Kevin, who gives a local perspective from Kenya on climate change and its implications for human health
Meet Kim, a doctor in Vietnam who gives her perspective on climate change
Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.