Skip to Main Content

Climate Crisis

This guide provides information, resources, and data on the climate crisis

Humanitarian Impacts of Climate Change

Recent data predict a massive increase in humanitarian needs in a near future related to climate change. This is due to the fact that countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also those that have been impacted by decades of endemic humanitarian crises. Disaster events such as droughts, floods or storms have exacerbated conflict, migration and violence. The livelihood of millions of people is - and will be even more - at risk and food security has become a serious worldwide threat. It is expected that with the effects of climate, these humanitarian crises will become worse and more people will be in need of urgent assistance.

Climate change threatens to reverse decades of progress towards better health and well-being, particularly in the most vulnerable communities. Scientific know-how and resources can help redress the balance, but are not sufficiently accessible or utilized, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The report, which includes input from more than 30 collaborating partners, features case studies from around the world showcasing how integrated climate and health action makes a very real difference in people’s daily life. This includes early warning systems for extreme heat, pollen monitoring to help allergy sufferers and satellite surveillance for climate-sensitive diseases.

“The climate crisis is a health crisis, driving more severe and unpredictable weather events, fuelling disease outbreaks, and contributing to higher rates of noncommunicable diseases,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "By working together to make high-quality climate services more accessible to the health sector, we can help to protect the health and well-being of people facing the perils of climate change."

Climate Migration & Displacement

Climate change increases the factors that put and keep people in poverty.

  • Floods may sweep away urban slums, destroying homes and livelihoods.
  • Heat can make it difficult to work in outdoor jobs.
  • Water scarcity may affect crops.

Over the past decade (2010–2019), weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million people on average each year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty. Most refugees come from countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“Climate displacement is movement, in part due to climate-related disasters, both sudden and slow-onset disasters, that are either temporary or permanent, within countries or across borders,” explains Ama Francis, climate displacement project strategist at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP). 

Across the world, the climate crisis disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, especially women. In fact, the United Nations estimates that women make up 80 percent of climate refugees. Not only are women, who are often caretakers, more likely than men to experience poverty, which impedes their recoveries from climate disasters, but the risks of gender-based violence against women and girls rise in areas disrupted by climate change.

Food & Water Insecurity

Changes in the climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition.

Fisheries, crops, and livestock may be destroyed or become less productive. With the ocean becoming more acidic, marine resources that feed billions of people are at risk.

Changes in snow and ice cover in many Arctic regions have disrupted food supplies from herding, hunting, and fishing. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands for grazing, causing declining crop yields and affecting livestock.

Illness & Disease

Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Climate impacts are already harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events, heat-related illness and death, forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food.

Every year, environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people. Changing weather patterns are expanding diseases, and extreme weather events increase deaths and make it difficult for health care systems to keep up.