Global Public Health Feels the Heat

November 15, 2006

In June 2005, President George W. Bush announced a $1.2 billion, 5-year initiative to combat the scourge of malaria with these words:

The toll of malaria is even more tragic because the disease itself is highly treatable and preventable. Yet this is also our opportunity, because we know that large-scale action can defeat this disease in whole regions. And the world must take that action.

As the President's Malaria Initiative rolls out, is the leading industrial superpower (let alone the whole world) really is taking every possible "large-scale action" to fight malaria? One set of actions that needs to be on the table is more active reduction of carbon emissions and other contributors to climate change. As reported in the Washington Post:

In Kenya, where temperature increases have tracked the global average, malaria epidemics have occurred in highland areas where cooler weather historically has kept down populations of disease-bearing mosquitoes, said Solomon M. Nzioka, a Kenyan Health Ministry consultant. Research shows that even a seemingly small rise in temperatures can produce a 10-fold increase in the mosquito population, he said. The WHO's Dr. Bettina Menne said malaria, which two decades ago was present in only three southeastern European countries, has spread north to Russia and a half-dozen other nearby countries. Russian news media reported in September that larvae of the anopheles mosquito, the malaria carrier, had been found in Moscow.

The evidence about the health consequences of the climate change is compelling. But what to do? As a starter, check out the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, which lays out a far-ranging set of options for collective action. My colleague Lawrence MacDonald summarizes nicely here.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.