Preventing the Proliferation of Pestilence


The shifting temperature from climate change is increasing the range of unwanted pests, spreading deadly diseases and endangering human health. For example, the warmer temperatures are expanding the habitat of mosquitoes that carry diseases such as Zika, malaria, and dengue fever. The COP noted that in 2015, changed climatic conditions in Florida and Louisiana creates the environmental suitability for the Zika virus vectors to expand into the United States.

Climate Change DiseasesIn 2005, COP11 established through DC2/CP.11 the “Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation to climate change” (NWP). The NWP’s objective is to assist all Parties improve their understanding and assessment of impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation in order to make informed decisions on adaptation actions. Under the guidance of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) chair, the NWP gathers technical information on adaptation and seeks to identify knowledge gaps within the international community by engaging with over 350 expert organizations and other COP bodies such as the Adaptation Committee (AC) and the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG). Using a multi-step plan, the NWP streamlines the adaptation information to Parties, allowing health health risk strategies to be easily accessible.

Nairobi BannerAccording to the key findings in the 10th Focal Point Forum, climate change negatively impacts human health because it lengthens the transmission season and expands the geographical range of many diseases. Using this information, in March 2018, the NWP created the Adaptation Knowledge Portal to conveniently hold hundreds of case studies and tools for Parties to access when establishing their NAPs. Looking forward, the SBSTA encourages Parties to use this information when creating or implementing their NAPs. For example, St. Lucia included in its NAP an adaptation measure to “model and map the risk of climate-sensitive disease with climate change scenarios to support long-term planning” and to “improve data collection and analysis for modelling and mapping climate-related disease.” This measure is a great solution that other Parties can also implement to deter the health effects of expanding diseases.

Recently, the risk from expanding diseases seems to be placed as a low priority for COP. The 11th FPF did not discuss increasing disease transmission nor will the upcoming 12th FPF discuss the topic. Even in the realm of loss and damage, the Warsaw International Mechanism recognizes that non-economic losses do cover human health impacts, but has not explicitly addressed this issue. In the 2018 WIM Excom Report, SBSTA stresses the issues of slow-onset and extreme climate events, but does not expand on health related non-economic issues. Although WIM Excom has not been vocal on the issue, World Health Organization (WHO), UN Environment, and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has recently, jointly launched a new global coalition on health, environment, and climate change to reduce the annual 12.6 million deaths caused by environmental risks. However, this coalition focuses mainly on the negative effects of air pollution. I believe it is pertinent for the UNFCCC to join the coalition to begin a dialogue about human health risks at the COP and then to take initiative to bring climate-related diseases onto the COP agenda.