Climate change, food, water and population health in China

Shilu Tong, Helen L Berry, Kristie Ebi, Hilary Bambrick, Wenbiao Hu, Donna Green, Elizabeth Hanna, Zhiqiang Wang, Colin D Butler

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Abstract

Anthropogenic climate change appears to be increasing the frequency, duration and intensity of extreme weather events. Such events have already had substantial impacts on socioeconomic development and population health. Climate change’s most profound impacts are likely to be on food, health systems and water. This paper explores how climate change will affect food, human health and water in China. Projections indicate that the overall effects of climate change, land conversion and reduced water availability could reduce Chinese food production substantially – although uncertainty is inevitable in such projections. Climate change will probably have substantial impacts on water resources – e.g. changes in rainfall patterns and increases in the frequencies of droughts and floods in some areas of China. Such impacts would undoubtedly threaten population health and well-being in many communities. In the short-term, population health in China is likely to be adversely affected by increases in air temperatures and pollution. In the medium to long term, however, the indirect impacts of climate change – e.g. changes in the availability of food, shelter and water, decreased mental health and well-being and changes in the distribution and seasonality of infectious diseases – are likely to grow in importance. The potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change can only be avoided if all countries work together towards a substantial reduction in the emission of so-called greenhouse gases and a substantial increase in the global population’s resilience to the risks of climate variability and change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-765
Number of pages7
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume94
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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