Intergovernmental engagement on health impacts of climate change

Niheer Dasandi, Hilary Graham, Pete Lampard, Slava Jankin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
162 Downloads (Pure)


Objective: To examine countries’ engagement with the health impacts of climate change in their formal statements to intergovernmental organizations, and the factors driving engagement.

Methods: We obtained the texts of countries’ annual statements in United Nations (UN) general debates from 2000 to 2019 and their nationally determined contributions at the Paris Agreement in 2016. To measure countries’ engagement, we used a keyword-in-context text search with relevant search terms to count the total number of references to the relationship of health to climate change. We used a machine learning model (random forest predictions) to identify the most important country-level predictors of engagement. The predictors included political and economic factors, health outcomes, climate change-related variables and membership of political negotiating groups in the UN.

Findings: For both UN general debate statements and nationally determined contributions, low- and middle-income countries discussed the health impacts of climate change much more than did high-income countries. The most important predictors of engagement were health outcomes (infant mortality, maternal deaths, life expectancy), countries’ income levels (gross domestic product per capita), and fossil fuel consumption. Membership of political negotiating groups (such as the Group of 77 and Small Island Developing States) was a less important predictor.

Conclusion: Our analysis indicated a higher engagement in countries that carry the heaviest climate-related health burdens, but lack necessary resources to address the impacts of climate change. These countries are shouldering responsibility for reminding the global community of the implications of climate change for people’s health.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-111B
JournalBulletin of the World Health Organization
Issue number2
Early online date4 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Climate Change
  • Public health
  • Global Health
  • international organisations
  • Machine learning
  • Natural Language Processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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