Review

Climate change is catchy – but when will it really hurt?

N A Sweijd, C Y Wright, A Westwood, M Rouault, W A Landman, M L MacKenzie, J J C Nuttall, H Mahomed, T Cousins, K Winter, F Berhoozi, B Kalule, P Kruger, T Govender, N Minakawa

Abstract


Concern and general awareness about the impacts of climate change in all sectors of the social-ecological-economic system is growing as a result of improved climate science products and information, as well as increased media coverage of the apparent manifestations of the phenomenon in our society. However, scales of climate variability and change, in space and time, are often confused and so attribution of impacts on various sectors, including the health sector, can be misunderstood and misrepresented. In this review, we assess the mechanistic links between climate and infectious diseases in particular, and consider how this relationship varies, and may vary according to different time scales, especially for aetiologically climate-linked diseases. While climate varies in the medium (inter-annual) time frame, this variability itself may be oscillating and/or trending on cyclical and long-term (climate change) scales because of regional and global scale climate phenomena such as the El-Nino southern oscillation coupled with global-warming drivers of climate change. As several studies have shown, quantifying and modelling these linkages and associations at appropriate time and space scales is both necessary and increasingly feasible with improved climate science products and better epidemiological data. The application of this approach is considered for South Africa, and the need for a more concerted effort in this regard is supported.


Authors' affiliations

N A Sweijd, Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Cape Town, South Africa

C Y Wright, Environment and Health Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council; Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology, Faculty of Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa

A Westwood, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

M Rouault, Department of Oceanography, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa

W A Landman, Natural Resources and the Environment, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Pretoria, South Africa

M L MacKenzie, Centre for Research into Ecological & Environmental Modelling, School of Mathematics & Statistics, St Andrews University, Scotland, UK

J J C Nuttall, Infectious Diseases Unit, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and Faculty of Health Sciences,University of Cape Town, South Africa

H Mahomed, Metro District Health Services, Western Cape Government: Health, South Africa; Division of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

T Cousins, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

K Winter, Department of Environmental & Geographical Science, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town, South Africa

F Berhoozi, School of Child and Adolescent Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

B Kalule, Department of Pathology, Division of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

P Kruger, Malaria Institute, Department of Health Limpopo, Tzaneen, South Africa

T Govender, Metro District Health Services, Western Cape Government: Health, South Africa; Division of Community Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa

N Minakawa, Department of Vector Ecology and Environment, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nagasaki University, Japan

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Keywords

Climate change; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(12):1018-1023. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2015.v105i12.10332

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-11-10
Date published: 2015-11-11

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