US Climate and Health Alliance

Role of law at the non-communicable diseases-climate change interface: considerations for planetary and population health policy


The contemporary way of living has not only damaged planetary health due to land use changes and increased production of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but the imbalanced consumption has also led to rapid increases in non-communicable diseases (NCDs).Climate change has been described as the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century. Its consequences range from fatalities associated with extreme weather and other events, through to malnutrition resulting from food insecurity. While NCDs encompass a range of diseases, the current focus is predominantly on the four major NCDs – cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases – that already account for over 60% of the world’s deaths (>30 million) and 80% of NCD deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This and the long years of disability preceding death that hinder human development and can lead to massive loss of productivity prompted the 2011 United Nations (UN) Political Declaration on NCDs, which recognizes the link between NCDs and the environment. This link is re-enforced in the 2012 UN Rio+20 Outcomes Document and by the World Economic Forum, which, in recent years, has consistently ranked NCDs among the top global threats to business. In view of this, it is unsurprising that an emerging body of research and critical thinking is centred on examining the co-benefits of climate change mitigation and NCD prevention. Much of this literature is predicated on developing policy scenarios to assess co-benefits, particularly regarding GHG emissions, and indicates that GHG reduction may have substantial health benefits. However, there appears to be no evidence of the actual health effects of existing policies. Still, it has been argued that the ‘two great and urgent contemporary human challenges’ – to improve global health and protect people from the impacts of climate change – would benefit from aligning their policy agendas to improve population and planetary health.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
S. Boylan K. Syrett R. Colagiuri
Resource URL
Public Health
Journal Abbr.
Public Health
Jun 2013
Short Title
Role of law at the non-communicable diseases-climate change interface
Organization Type
Health and Human Impacts
Cardiovascular disease Other disease Respiratory disease
International policy Policy International

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