Climate change: an amplifier of existing health risks in developing countries.

Maud Huynen*, Pim Martens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Global warming is perceived as one of the biggest global health risks of the twenty-first century and a threat to the achievement of sustainable (economic) development; especially in developing countries, climate change is believed to further exacerbate existing vulnerability to disease and food security risks, because their populations are, for example, more reliant on agriculture and more vulnerable to droughts and have a lower adaptive capacity. Furthermore, the health-related impacts of climate change are threatening to undo decades of development policies. The interactions between climate and non-climate factors are of vital importance in shaping human vulnerability to global warming. Climate change cannot be seen as ‘a stand-alone risk factor,’ but rather as an amplifier of existing health and food security risks and an additional strain on institutional infrastructures. In order to avoid a multiplication of health risks in the developing world, there is a need to better understand the multifaceted and complex linkages involved. This is further illustrated for two important climate change–induced health risks, namely malnutrition and malaria. As the amplification of existing and emerging health risks in the developing world might become the greatest tragedy of climate change, adaptation ranks high on developing countries’ agendas. Of particular importance are the discussions about the ‘Green Climate Fund,’ which aims to administer billions of dollars for mitigation and adaptation. Of course, making funds for adaptation available is an important first step, but we also need to ask ourselves the question how such adaptation policies and projects should take shape. This paper demonstrates that an adequate response to climate change health risks should take a systems approach toward adaptation, acknowledging the importance of the local context of the most vulnerable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1442
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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