The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that climate change is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths globally per year through various factors including shifts in disease patterns and deteriorating air quality. The Paris climate summit, which is to be held from November 20 to December 11, 2015, aims to produce a worldwide pact on keeping global warming from climbing past two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels. The United Nations (UN) has suggested that this upcoming climate summit could produce the most important agreement of the century for public health matters.
In 2014, the WHO published a report indicating that some seven million people die annually from air pollution-related diseases, but that health considerations are still not given sufficient attention in debates about climate change.
‘The UN suggested that the upcoming Paris climate summit could produce the most important agreement for public health matters. The WHO advised experts to seriously consider a plan for raising the cost of fossil fuels to offset their negative health impacts.’
Maria Neira, director of public health at WHO, said, "An ambitious agreement would save lives and ease health budgets worldwide. The treaty, if it's a good one, will probably be the most important public health treaty of this century."
Among the initiatives the WHO said deserve serious consideration, is a plan for raising the cost of fossil fuels to offset their negative health impacts. WHO said, "Such a 'tax' could possibly reduce air pollution deaths by half, reduce carbon dioxide emissions while raising some $3 trillion in new revenue."
Citing an example of how rising global temperatures have already sparked public health problems, WHO's climate change team leader Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum pointed to malaria, which he said has begun to appear with increased frequency in areas with previously negligible prevalence.