In brief

  • There is increasing evidence to suggest that climate change is a material risk to human health and wellbeing, and that health – and healthcare systems – can be affected by global warming in many different ways.
  • Climate adaptation measures are needed to help reduce climate change risks to health, and to help healthcare systems become more resilient by pre-empting climate risks, mitigating health and economic impacts, and better managing the burden of climate change-related ill health.
  • Investors have a key role to play in the support and development of climate adaptation solutions across all stages of the healthcare value chain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, impacting society and the economy in the form of air pollution, food and water insecurity, infectious disease, extreme heat, extreme weather events, and more.The negative health effects of climate change will become more severe and less manageable as global temperature rise accelerates. These climate-related health impacts will lead to increased demand for healthcare, which existing healthcare systems may struggle to meet.

At the same time as facing an increased burden of demand from climate change-related ill health, healthcare systems are themselves at risk from climate change. Climate change-related hazards already routinely stress and disrupt healthcare systems and threaten access to healthcare for many.With greater warming, the entire healthcare system is likely to face increased supply chain disruption, resource scarcity and infrastructure damage. This likely to make coping with the extra demand that will be placed on healthcare providers significantly more difficult.3

In this paper, we explore climate change risk as it relates to healthcare systems and to the healthcare sector. Looking at healthcare companies through a climate adaptation lens can offer insights into potential climate-related risks and opportunities within investment portfolios.

Cissé, G., McLeman, R., Adams, H., Aldunce, P., Bowen, K., Campbell- Lendrum, D., Clayton, S., Ebi, K.L., Hess, J., Huang, C., Liu, Q., McGregor, G., Semenza, J., Tirado, M.C, “Health, Wellbeing, and the Changing Structure of Communities” in “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability – Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”, pp. 1041–1170, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, 2022). doi:10.1017/9781009325844.009.
Crimmins, A.R., Avery, C.W., Easterling, D.R., Kunkel, K.E., Stewart, B.C., Maycock, T.K., (eds.), “Fifth National Climate Assessment”, US Global Change Research Program (Washington DC, 2023). https://doi. org/10.7930/NCA5.2023
3 Drew, J., Christie, Prof S.D, Rainham, Prof D., Rizan, C., “HealthcareLCA: An Open-Access Living Database of Healthcare Environmental Impact Assessments”, The Lancet Planetary Health Volume 6, Number 12 e928-e1012 (December
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