Explainer

Tracking the health effects of climate change around the world

Data is a powerful tool for understanding the health effects of climate change. That’s why we’ve mapped 120 years of climate data to show where four climate-related health risks (drought, flooding, extreme heat and disease) have been recorded. What's crucial now is filling the gaps in the data so we can find ways to protect those communities most at risk.

Select a climate-related health risk to learn more 

Behind the data of this climate change map 

We’ve collected the latest data from two of the world’s most commonly used climate and disaster data sources and presented them in this map.

  • The International Disaster Database (EM-DAT) – provides comprehensive, global data on the impact of human disasters, including the number of events, the people killed, injured or affected and the economic damage.
  • Climatic Research Unit (CRU) – develops several data sets that are widely used in climate research, including the global temperature and precipitation records used to monitor the state of the climate system.

You can explore the data behind years of devastating drought in Brazil or witness the shocking rise in flooding across India or take a deep dive into recent climate-sensitive disease research from across the world. 

But you can also see the gaps in the data. 

Datasets like this are never complete. Data may not have been collected, or shared by those who collect it. The quality of data may also vary. These limitations have real-world impacts on the under-resourced field of climate and health research. 

For example, how can we develop early-warning systems for heatwaves in South Asia unless temperature records are reliable, available and accessible to those who need them?  

Or how can future outbreaks of cholera be prevented if we don’t invest more in research to investigate the impact that climate change is having on its transmission? 

How can health researchers use climate data effectively if we don’t bring health and climate communities together to solve common problems?  

Our climate and health tracker aims to shine a light on these challenges. 

For example, by mapping the average number of data collecting stations per gridded area (the CRU data uses an area of 0.5° by 0.5°) in each country, we gain a snapshot of how climate data sharing and data quality varies around the world – from eight or more stations per area in China, to an average of just two in Papua New Guinea.

We need more data on climate change and health 

Climate change affects us all. For some people and places, the effects are already far worse. 

To protect the communities most at risk, we need to know where and how the climate is changing and where these changes have the greatest impact.

But without more resources, investment, and collaboration across the field of climate and health research, the gaps in our scientific understanding will continue to limit our ability to act. 

That’s why we’re funding a transformation in the scale of research into the impacts of climate change on human health. To drive this transformation, we need to make sure that high quality data is not only available, but accessible and used particularly in areas and communities most at risk of climate impacts. 

Over the next 10 years, we will be investing in the development of evidence to significantly increase our understanding of the current and future effects of climate change on health; how to protect the health of populations as the climate changes; and the potential benefits to health of actions that would reduce climate change.   

But this essential evidence alone will not be enough. 

We will also work to ensure that this data and research is used by key decision makers at a community, national and global level to make science-informed choices that deliver interventions and policies that respond to the urgent climate and health crisis. 

We are funding teams to catalyse the development of climate and health research. Explore our current funding call:

Advancing evidence-informed mitigation policy solutions with health co-benefits in G7 countries

Biological vulnerability to extreme heat in maternal and child health

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