Call for papers: The impact of climate change on human health


Call for papers: The impact of climate change on human health

Climate change has moved to the top of the agenda of critical issues to address in countries across the world and as a collective global society. While the increasing levels of discourse and actions on the climate crisis are encouraging and vital, these have been dominated by a focus on the natural sciences. But what about the sociological impact?

Very little research has been done on climate change from an environmental sociology and a sociology of health perspective, referring to the impact of climate change on human health, including physical, mental and social health. However, the strong relationship between humans and their physical environment, which has been widely documented, implies that extreme weather conditions and related events will have consequences for human health. Evidence that events linked to extreme weather patterns such as increased air pollution, heat strokes, flooding and droughts have a negative effect on health outcomes in communities is already surfacing.

A special journal issue aims to address this gap

To address this critical gap in the discourse on the climate crisis, the South African Review of Sociology is planning a special issue in July 2024 that will explore the relationship between climate change and human health.

Two of the Africa Centre’s permanent staff members, interim director Dr Munya Saruchera and lecturer Dr Chioma Ohanjunwa, are guest editors on this special issue. The other guest editors are Dr Desire Chiwandire, a postdoctoral research associate with the Department of Disability and Human Development (DHD) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Dr Mzingaye Xaba, a research fellow at the Institution for Pan African Thought and Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. With different research focus areas and interests, the editors all look at the interplay between the climate crisis and health through different lenses, indicating how complex and multifaceted the threat to human health truly is. Nevertheless, the common thread, namely that addressing this topic is of critical importance, is undeniable.

Munya highlights the socioeconomic and gender impact. “Climate change is affecting the social and economic determinants of health, including sufficient food, secure shelter, livelihoods and access to quality healthcare and social support structures. These effects and our ability to mitigate and adapt to them are mediated by social factors, including gender. As a result, existing socioeconomic and gender inequities are deepening, are resulting in women and girls bearing the brunt of the crisis.”

Working in the field of disability, Desire emphasises how the most vulnerable people often draw the shortest straw when it comes to climate change consequences. “Many poor people with disabilities, mostly in the Global South, have not enjoyed equal access to healthcare services. This challenge will be exacerbated by the ongoing climate crisis, since it has a disproportionate impact on people who often have to bear brunt of paying for extra costs of living with a disability from their own pocket.”

Mzi adds his voice to these pleas by pointing out that climate change is producing complicated and multifaceted health problems, ranging from the destruction of healthcare facilities to psychological stress for communities.

Chioma, whose fieldwork and experience have been largely centred around indigenous African health perspectives, points out that the link between humans and the natural environment is inherent to African culture: “Within the African indigenous cosmology, humans are believed to exist in a three-dimensional reciprocal, caring and balanced relationship. The dimensions are humans, all of nature and the animals, and the divinity. We must therefore maintain this balance, because when it is lost, we all become unwell.” (Attributed to the amaBomvane community in the Eastern Cape.)

How to respond to the call for papers

If you’re interested in contributing to this issue, here’s what you need to know:

  • Abstracts must be written in English and have a maximum of 300 words.
  • Priority will be given to articles that take interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to the list of approved topics (see link to the full list below).
  • The deadline for abstracts is 25 September.

For more information on the list of topics, the review process and detailed timelines, download the complete call-for-papers flyer here.

If you have any questions or want to submit an abstract, please email If your submission is successful, you will receive feedback by 9 October.