Reporting on climate change and health

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UNESCO, Nairobi, Kenya

While climate change can have diverse direct and indirect effects on human health, there are also many false assumptions about these links. Journalists need to understand what researchers are sure about and where they have doubts. They also need to be skilled at explaining risk and uncertainty, and placing the links between climate change and health into a wider context of other health priorities.

Questions to ask

• What does climate change mean for existing health threats? What new health threats could climate change pose?

• How certain are scientists about these threats? What other factors are at play?

• What aspects of the climate-health link are scientists uncertain about?

• Is there scientific consensus or is this just a single study? What does the new study add?

• How much of a risk is there? And how does it compare to other risks?

• How reliable is the baseline data (about incidence of malaria, and about climatic conditions, for instance)?

• What would hospitals and government departments need to do to be prepared for a climatic disaster or new disease outbreak?

• What are the co-benefits of acting to limit the threats climate change poses to health?

• What does your country’s National Adaptation Programme of Action, or National Adaptation Plan, say about health?

• What has your country done so far to adapt to the health impacts of climate change?

• Is your country implementing the African Plan of Action for Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change (see below)?

Sources of information

African Plan of Action for Public Health Adaptation to Climate Change (2012-2016) http://www.afdb.org/en/ cop/programme/the-african-plan-of-action-for-public-health-adaptation-to-climate-change-2012-2016/

Medical journal The Lancet has published a special collection of research papers, commentaries and audio-visual material on climate change and health. http://www.thelancet.com/series/health-and-climate-change

World Health Organization http://www.who.int/topics/climate/en/

Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Need for Better Evidence. This paper describes the gaps in knowledge, skills and institutions that affect Africa’s ability to deal with the health effects of climate change. http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001374

Atlas of Climate Change and Health. This publication by the WHO is free to download and includes major sections on infectious diseases, emergencies and new health threats. http://www.who.int/globalchange/publications/atlas/report/ en/index.html

UNECA Working Paper: Climate change and Health across Africa: Issues and Options http://www.uneca.org/ publications/wp-20-climate-change-and-health-across-africa-issues-and-options

WHO Bulletin. Slums, climate change and human health in sub-Saharan Africa http://www.who.int/bulletin/ volumes/87/12/09-073445/en/

Chapter 8 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report reviews the scientific knowledge of links between climate change and health. (http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch8.html)

SciDev.Net: The challenges of reporting on climate change and health. http://www.scidev.net/global/malaria/opinion/ the-challenge-of-reporting-on-climate-change-and-h.html.

Earth Journalism Toolkit: Communicating Risk. http://earthjournalism.net/toolkit/?p=237