Planetary health photo

  Photo: Lindstrom

Planetary Health

Planetary health can be characterized as the simultaneous pursuit of the health of humanity and of the natural systems on which it depends.

Despite unprecedented gains in human health, natural systems are being degraded to an extent unmatched in human history. Global environmental change — evidenced in climate change, land degradation, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and ocean acidification, among others — threatens continued social and economic progress.

With the objective to maximize the impact of the planetary health approach on policy making and economic planning, the Rockefeller Foundation launched an initiative to formulate the economic case of planetary health and recommend highl level policy actions. The initiative included appointing a Council with members from academia, civil society and business. That body, the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, is chaired by the YCSG Director, Ernesto Zedillo.

Planetary Health and the Provision of Public Goods

Since its inception, the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization has been engaged in the inquiry of how to provide global public goods, which are the ones needed to address planetary problems caused by human activities.

In this time of intensifying political divisions between countries, regions and groupings, understanding the character of global public goods compels the recognition that all states have a vested interest in each other’s mutual benefit and helps to transcend the divisions that weaken the prospects for tackling common ills.  The concept of global public goods provides a powerful framework to rediscover both classical and contemporary arguments for international cooperation, to generate innovation and to identify pathways to overcoming some of the obstacles governments confront in grappling with today’s global ills. Learn more in our planetary health and the provision of global public goods document (PDF — opens in new window). To read more about global public goods, what they are and why many are in short supply, see the excerpts from chapter 2 (PDF — opens in new window). Download the full PDF document here.

Planetary Health: The Diagnostics, the Prescriptives and the Best Practices

Weak governance, patchwork global coordination and monitoring, low political will, market distortions, and lack of information parity emerge as key challenges in the implementation of policies and incentives aimed at improving the health of planetary systems for the benefit of human health.

YCSG Senior Planetary Health Adviser to the Chair of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, Latha Swamy, developed a set of matrices with the goal to have in mind for every one of the state variables — or the biophysical processes or systems under consideration (such as air, water and land pollution, biosphere integrity, climate change, etc.), what would be the best practice or the best policy framework to influence positively that state variable.

In the three matrices below, developed in 2018 and relevant still today, she examined, in brief, the mechanisms and structures for monitoring, governance and incentives of the biophysical processes or systems under concern and the respective control variable; the nature or scale of the respective externality; the public good resulting from fixing the externality; the existing governance, if any, to provide the public good; the monitoring, if any, of the state and control variables; and the existing incentives, positive and negative, to influence the extent of the respective externality. The best practices matrix offers information on what would be the best practice, or the best policy framework, to influence positively each state variable.

Diagnostic Matrix (PDF — opens in new window)

Prescriptive Matrix (PDF — opens in new window)

Best Practices Matrix (PDF opens in new window)

The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review

This 2021 review led by renowned Cambridge economist, Sir Partha Dasgupta, calls for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world, presenting a new framework for how we should account for Nature in economics and decision-making. Professor Dasgupta participated in the initial meeting organized by the YCSG at the Rockefeller Foundation in late 2016 where he shared some of the ideas contained in the report. Continue reading (PDF — opens in new window)

A Pledge for Planetary Health to Unite Health Professionals in the Anthropocene

Council member, Andy Haines, joins other experts in an effort to root planetary health principles in the ethos, education and practice of all health professionals. “A life-course and intergenerational approach, drawing on interventions that yield multiple co-benefits, should become a defining feature of medical, nursing and other health professions in the Anthropocene.” Read the Planetary Health Pledge (PDF — opens in new window)