Unhealthy geopolitics: can the response to COVID-19 reform climate change policy?

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The geopolitics of pandemics and climate change intersect. Both are complex and urgent problems that demand collective action in the light of their global and transboundary scope. In this article we use a geopolitical framework to examine some of the tensions and contradictions in global governance and cooperation that are revealed by the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We argue that the pandemic provides an early warning of the dangers inherent in weakened international cooperation. The world’s states, with their distinct national territories, are reacting individually rather than collectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries have introduced extraordinary measures that have closed, rather than opened up, international partnership and cooperation. Border closures, restrictions on social mixing, domestic purchase of public health supplies and subsidies for local industry and commerce may offer solutions at the national level but they do not address the global strategic issues. For the poorest countries of the world, pandemics join a list of other challenges that are exacerbated by pressures of scarce resources, population density and climate disruption. COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on those living with environmental stresses, such as poor air quality, should guide more holistic approaches to the geopolitical intersection of public health and climate change. By discussing unhealthy geopolitics, we highlight the urgent need for a coordinated global response to addressing challenges that cannot be approached unilaterally.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberID: BLT.20.269068
JournalBulletin of The World Health Organisation
Issue number99
Early online date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Geopoltiics
  • COVID19
  • Global Health
  • Climate Change

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