TCD Professor of Geography talks on Health Impacts of Climate Change at UN Conference in Durban, South Africa

Posted on: 07 December 2011

Professor of Geography, David Taylor, in the School of Natural Sciences and Chair of Trinity International Development Initiative, earlier this week made two invited presentations in Durban, South Africa, as part of the official delegation of the Government of Ireland, at events associated with the UN Climate Change conference (COP-17).  The events organised by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research, focused on the impacts of climate change in Africa: both of Professor Taylor’s presentations concerned possible effects in sub-Saharan Africa on diseases such as malaria and the parasitic disease schistosomiasis.

“What has surprised me is the extent to which climate change is now a geo-political rather than scientific issue.  The science of climate change is reasonably well understood – the argument has moved on to mitigation and adaptation and, perhaps most critically, who pays for what, how and when,” said Professor Taylor after the presentations.

“Much of the attention in the run up to the COP-17 meeting in Durban was on the Green Climate Fund (GCF).  The GCF is premised on the injustices of climate change, with the world’s poorest countries suffering effects caused by the historical greenhouse gas emissions of richer, developed countries.  The GCF provides a mechanism through which financial and technological assistance can be provided to enable poorer nations to develop along low-carbon paths and adapt to the consequences of climate change.   The intention is that the GCF will, by 2020, result in annual transfers (in effect, compensation) of around 100 billion US$ from developed to developing countries.   Ongoing arguments, in which the US, EU and Japan along with some developing nations are prominent, over which countries should pay for the GCF and how the funds should be distributed currently threaten a final agreement, and hence implementation.”

“The GCF is hugely important for sub-Saharan Africa, which is responsible for only a tiny proportion of total global Greenhouse Gas emissions,” Professor Taylor continued. “Most of the funds that have been released by rich countries to pay for the costs of climate change (through the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism) have been spent in the same rich countries on mitigating future changes in climate.  The GCF is different in that funds released are mainly to pay for adaptation – to enable poorer countries and their populations to adapt to climate change that is happening now as well projected for the future.  Governments in sub-Saharan Africa already have to find extra funds to pay for the additional burdens caused by climate change, and negative health impacts are an important component of this added burden.  We in the developed world run the risk of being remembered as the generation who saved its banks and rich investment bankers while neglecting the world’s poor.”

Professor Taylor coordinates a major EU FP7-funded research project (HEALTHY FUTURES).  More information on the project is at: