US Climate and Health Alliance

The economics of health and climate change: key evidence for decision making


Background: In responding to the health challenges of climate change, those responsible for health policies and resource allocations need to know the resource consequences of their decisions. This article examines the availability and strength of economic evidence for policy makers to draw on in making health policy decisions. Methods: Relevant literature was obtained using a Medline and INTERNET search of key terms and institutions working in health and climate change. Eighteen available economic studies are presented under three categories of economic evidence: health damage cost, health adaptation cost and health economic evaluation. Results: In economic studies valuing the predicted increased mortality from climate change, the health damages represent an important fraction of overall economic losses. Similarly, when considering broader health protection measures beyond the health sector (e.g. agriculture, water supply) health considerations are central. Global adaptation cost studies carried out so far indicate health sector costs of roughly US$2-5 billion annually (midestimates). However, these costs are expected to be an underestimate of the true costs, due to omitted health impacts, omitted economic impacts, and the costs of health actions in other sectors. No published studies compare the costs and benefits of specific health interventions to protect health from climate change. Conclusions: More economic studies are needed examining the costs and benefits of adaptation measures to inform policy making. There is an urgent need for climate change-specific health economic guidelines to ensure robust methods are used, giving comparable results. Broader advocacy and focused training of decision makers is needed to increase the uptake of economic evidence in decision making. Until further climate change-specific economic studies have been conducted, decision makers should selectively draw on published studies of the costs and benefits of environmental health interventions.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
Guy Hutton
Resource URL
Globalization and health
Short Title
The economics of health and climate change
Organization Type
Climate adaptation/resilience
Economics/cost analysis

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