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

  • NA Sweijd
  • CY Wright
  • A Westwood
  • M Rouault
  • WA Landman
  • ML MacKenzie
  • JJC Nuttall
  • H Mahomed
  • T Cousins
  • K Winter
  • F Berhoozi
  • B Kalule
  • P Kruger
  • T Govender
  • N Minakawa


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-Niño 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.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-5135
print ISSN: 0256-9574