Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 7: Climate change adaptation and public health law
In 2002, Oxford philosopher Benito Müller diagnosed ‘a clear North- South divide’ in climate change policy. In the ‘ecological view’ of the industrialized North, he wrote, ‘Climate change is perceived as a problem of polluting the environment, of degrading the eco-system[;] … its essence is seen to be that of a wrongful act against “Nature”. … The reality in the South is quite different: climate change has primarily come to be seen as a human welfare problem … The harm is against humans, it is largely other-inflicted, and it is not life-style-, but life-threatening’. In the intervening decade, the southern view has gained global traction. The global health community has made great strides in its efforts to ‘put a human face on climate change’. Epidemiological studies have shed light on the current and anticipated impacts of climate change on infectious diseases, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, natural disasters and mental health. The documentation of these impacts has lent weight to arguments for climate change mitigation – policies aimed at reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations as a means to prevent climate change from happening. At the same time, growing awareness of the enormous human health burden associated with climate change raises important questions about adaptation – policies aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change and reducing their severity. Given the significance of the health impacts associated with climate change, global public health infrastructure should be a crucial component of any adaptation strategy.
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