gms | German Medical Science

24. Jahrestagung des Netzwerks Evidenzbasierte Medizin e. V.

Netzwerk Evidenzbasierte Medizin e. V. (EbM-Netzwerk)

22. - 24.03.2023, Potsdam

The climate crisis as an ethical challenge

Meeting Abstract

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  • Lukas Kenner - MedUniIWien, Institut für klinische Pathologie, Wien, Österreich
  • Barbara Prainsack - Uni Wien, Department für Political Science, Wien, Österreich
  • Hans-Peter Hutter - MedUniWien, Abteilung für Umwelthygiene und Umweltmedizin, Wien, Österreich

Gesundheit und Klima – EbM für die Zukunft. 24. Jahrestagung des Netzwerks Evidenzbasierte Medizin. Potsdam, 22.-24.03.2023. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2023. Doc23ebmV2-02

doi: 10.3205/23ebm017, urn:nbn:de:0183-23ebm0170

Published: March 21, 2023

© 2023 Kenner et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Background/research question: The climate crisis is a multi-faceted global phenomenon attributed to exponentially increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These lead to a rapidly increasing greenhouse effect, followed by unprecedented, rapid global warming, the discernible and measurable consequences of which are, for example, a massive loss of biodiversity, more frequent extreme weather events, drought and flood disasters, forest fires, and rapidly rising sea levels. In addition, climate change poses a threat to the health and social security of billions of people, with socially and economically vulnerable people being hit hardest. Inequality, discrimination, and injustice are rising. Furthermore, climatic conditions favour the transmission of numerous infectious diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, leishmaniasis and Ebola or their spread to new regions. As a result of sustained wet-bulb temperature of 31°, a lethal threshold at which the human system is no longer sufficient to cool the body sufficiently, heat-related health problems such as exhaustion, heat stroke and heart attacks are becoming more prevalent. Other immediate impacts of climate change include destruction of infrastructure and energy supplies, food production with conflicts over water scarcity and food supply, which in turn lead to impaired physical and mental health and threats to security. Socio-economically disadvantaged areas with weak health infrastructure, such as in the Global South, will be least able to cope with the consequences of climate crisis. The overriding imperative is to achieve GHG emission reductions at all levels to mitigate negative health impacts. The Paris Agreement (2015) should therefore also be understood as a crucial health agreement.

Methods: This paper aims to highlight the ethical aspects of climate crisis, especially in the health sector, and to present recommendations for action for political leaders.

Results: Climate crisis affects all human rights, but especially the right to life, liberty, property and security. We define here important ethical challenges of the climate crisis that influence and reinforce each other.

Conclusion: Addressing the challenges of the climate crisis through ethical bodies would therefore be highly useful. On the one hand, to work out the ethical dimension of inaction in relation to the pressing challenges, on the other hand, to push for the implementation of corresponding concrete measures to mitigate the fatal effects and a probable collapse of society.