We have made significant progress in reducing the global burden of infectious diseases over the past few decades. Improved sanitation, better hygiene practices, and comprehensive prevention and control efforts have averted countless deaths and saved millions of people from unnecessary pain and suffering.
However, as exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, infectious diseases remain a pressing threat to global health, particularly as climate change is poised to exacerbate this issue in myriad ways. Increasing global temperatures have already expanded the areas where climate-sensitive infectious diseases thrive, putting millions more at risk of diseases such as malaria and dengue. Climate change will continue to increase the frequency of extreme weather events, including floods and drought, both of which can increase infectious disease risk; as seen with COVID-19, lack of access to clean water inhibits effective hand hygiene and contributes to disease spread. Urbanization and migration related to climate change, already underway and expected to grow rapidly in coming decades, will also complicate the prevention and control of many communicable diseases.
This report (and a further collection of articles available online) explores the key infectious disease challenges related to climate change. It concludes with a number of recommendations to address these issues and reduce their associated health risks. We hope that policymakers will use this guidance as part of a wider effort to tackle the threat of climate change and ensure the wellbeing of future generations.