Intergovernmental engagement on health impacts of climate change.


Dasandi N(1), Graham H(2), Lampard P(2), Jankin Mikhaylov S(3).
Author information:
(1)International Development Department, University of Birmingham, 1143 Muirhead Tower, Birmingham B15 2TT, England.
(2)Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, England.
(3)Data Science Lab, Hertie School, Berlin, Germany.


OBJECTIVE: To examine countries' engagement with the health impacts of climate change in their formal statements to intergovernmental organizations, and the factors driving engagement. METHODS: We obtained the texts of countries' annual statements in United Nations (UN) general debates from 2000 to 2019 and their nationally determined contributions at the Paris Agreement in 2016. To measure countries' engagement, we used a keyword-in-context text search with relevant search terms to count the total number of references to the relationship of health to climate change. We used a machine learning model (random forest predictions) to identify the most important country-level predictors of engagement. The predictors included political and economic factors, health outcomes, climate change-related variables and membership of political negotiating groups in the UN. FINDINGS: For both UN general debate statements and nationally determined contributions, low- and middle-income countries discussed the health impacts of climate change much more than did high-income countries. The most important predictors of engagement were health outcomes (infant mortality, maternal deaths, life expectancy), countries' income levels (gross domestic product per capita), and fossil fuel consumption. Membership of political negotiating groups (such as the Group of 77 and Small Island Developing States) was a less important predictor. CONCLUSION: Our analysis indicated a higher engagement in countries that carry the heaviest climate-related health burdens, but lack necessary resources to address the impacts of climate change. These countries are shouldering responsibility for reminding the global community of the implications of climate change for people's health.