The overarching goal of the Sustainability Development Goals taken as a whole is human welfare. That is to say, maintenance or improvement of the human condition. Indeed, the first eight goals, no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, clean affordable energy, and decent work and economic growth, deal directly with humans and their immediate condition. The remaining nine goals address the living and non-living infrastructure or resources and social structures that one way or another, provide support for the maintenance and improvement of the human condition. Obviously, there're interactions between the welfare-oriented goals themselves. Achieving any one of these eight goals will have positive effects on most, if not all of the others. All of these welfare goals are however also clearly interlinked with one or more of goals nine to 17, which focus on environment and infrastructure issues. Climate change, goal number 13 interacts with goal one, poverty, as it is generally speaking, the poorest that are most impacted by climate change. Climate change makes it harder to escape poverty. In a 25 year study in a region of India reported by the Brookings Institute, it was shown that 14 percent of the families studied escaped poverty while at the same time 12 percent slid into poverty. Almost half of those moving into poverty cited weather events as being causal for the degradation of their economic position. Climate change also has a clear relationship to hunger. At present, the United Nations World Food Program estimates there are a billion hungry mouths to feed. But climate change is expected to increase this number substantially, as increasing temperatures, variability in rainfall, and changes in rainfall distribution decrease reliable production from farmlands and some of the poorer regions of the world. At the same time, these changes in rainfall patterns will influence access to clean drinking water for many people. One in every five people today still does not have access to reliable electricity, and the human population continues to grow. Thus, meeting the SDGs will entail a substantial increase in energy demand. This explains why SDG 7, which aims at eradicating energy poverty, stipulates that this should be done using clean energy. Meeting the increasing demand for energy with fossil fuel-based energies would completely undermine efforts to meet SDG 13, which aims at curbing climate change, and links directly up to the international agreements made under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the latest of these having been made in Paris in 2015. All of these examples are well-known, and there are myriad other well-known examples that can be used to demonstrate interactions between SDGs. Less well-known are the interactions between climate change and other global environmental changes on human health, SDG number three. This is an area of increasing research focus. And I have asked Associate professor, Peter Furu from the Faculty of Health at the University of Copenhagen to tell me a bit about the interactions between human health and global environmental change, as well as the international efforts to study them. Tell me Peter, what do you see as being the major health challenges we should be concerned about in the 21st century? I think some of the major challenges that we are confronted with today is really the lack of proper stewardship and lack of proper governance for our natural systems. Because there's so much cross relationship between our natural systems and the state of the environment and human health. So the anthropogenic drivers that we see that do affect the various systems really have major impacts in the sense that the risk of natural hazards, disasters, do increase a lot. And we have seen it in recent years where the scope, the frequency, the volume of disasters have expanded a lot. So it's crucial that we maintain that we manage our systems well to ensure that in the future, we can also still depend on good services from our ecosystems. So I have a doctor sitting here telling me that one of the most important things we can do for human health is to preserve biodiversity? Yes. That's right. Biodiversity is closely linked to human health. Just think of the medicines, the traditional medicines that we may harvest from the forest areas. If biodiversity is reduced in terms of the plant species, then this may impact human health in the future because we are prevented from developing new medicines from that rich source of the forest. What about deforestation? That's something we're very concerned about in terms of other living organisms' biodiversity, but does it have an effect on humans? It does have an effect, yes. We see problems with, for example, landslides that suddenly increases in frequency because of the lack of trees. Landslides will of course dramatically affect human health in terms of injuries and death. We see that the soil will not any longer have the good regulatory ecosystem service within it to purify water properly. We see that, and particularly, the infectious diseases increasing in some areas because of that potential transmission of infections from animals to humans in that forest zone. So what you're saying is that the contact between humans and animals increases, so that you have a greater chance of contagion? Yes. And good examples I think are the Ebola virus, the Zika virus, which both have sort of close relation to animals originating from the forest areas. What about things like heatwaves in connection with climate change? Yes. Climate change is probably one of the major threats to human health. And as we know, temperature will change depending on where we are on the earth. And the heatwaves really have been something that dramatically have affected human health. We saw the example in Europe, in 2003, where there was an excess of death of 70,000 people which we relate to that heatwave in Europe in 2003. The fact that people do not cope well with heat because of the body which has adapted over so many years to a certain temperature level, if that changes, well, then we are struggling with actually coping with those changes. The climate change is a global change. What about our local environment? Obviously, if there's pollution, that could affect us. But do other changes in the local environment actually mean anything for human health? Yes. And I think an example could be urbanization that we see also related to the fact that climate is changing. We have more people on the move away from dry storms where droughts are prominent these days, away from flooded areas. We see that migration to the urban environments. So, urbanization and human health is important because of the linkages between, for example, temperature, which really can be an issue in the urban setting because of the capture of heat by buildings and roads. The so-called urban heat island effect is something that has a dramatic influence on human health and can lead to death, especially among vulnerable groups who may die from heat stress. So you're saying that actually environmental change, global and local environmental change, actually has an impact on human health and something that we should be concerned about, but is this being taken up in agenda setting in terms of the political agenda setting around health? I think so. Yes. And also in the research community, there are big efforts to try to deal with the changes we see and the role of the environmental factors for human health. We have now a well-established one health concept and approach where we look at human health as it relates to veterinary health and also the environmental conditions underlying the fact that many diseases originate from animals or the zoonotic infections for example, the fact that we now have the approach called ecohealth where we really look at the ecosystems and their impact on health and particularly, the ecosystem services and their role for human health, or the provisioning services, for example, food, fiber, medicines that originate from ecosystems, from the rich biodiversity we have. So, there's a need for human systems, by that, I mean the governance systems in place to talk to people responsible for the natural systems, for the proper management, for the proper governance of those systems, because if we do not ensure good governance of our systems, then we fail to maintain our good health in the future. So you're talking about partnerships between different types of interests in here. Yes. And we have an SDG that focuses on partnerships. Number 17. That's right. Number 17 is important because it will force us to think across sectors, across normal relations. We have to establish partnerships to ensure that we do work together and not to maintain the silos between different sectors, but the challenge is to make that available to the policymakers and make sure that that knowledge is taken up at the proper level and also translated into action. Because of the complexity of the whole thing, we cannot address specific diseases, but need to take a holistic view on the role of the environment for human health. Thank you Peter. I find this fascinating because we're realizing in the kind of science that I do that what's really interesting now is not so much the study of the organism itself, but the organisms interaction with other organisms and the environment around it. For example, why are gut floras important for our immune systems, and so on. And what you're saying is that we can scale this even farther up and that looking at the well-being and health of humans, it's important also to focus on our interaction with other organisms and the world around us. Yes. My purpose in talking to Peter was to get more information concerning the interactions between human health and the environment, but Peter brought two more topics up that should be emphasized. The first is the need for a systems approach in order to achieve sustainable development. Super optimizing individual sectors, even with respect to the most relevant SDGs for that sector, will not necessarily lead to achieving the SDG vision. Every activity will have positive interactions with some and negative interactions with other SDGs. The synergies between the positive interactions should, of course, be exploited. However, if the negative impacts of the activity are not addressed and minimized at the same time, sustainable development will remain out of reach. Thinking in terms of systems is a challenge for most people and for most of our infrastructure. Our educational systems, for example, tend to be organized along disciplinary lines. Political and public administration is normally organized along sectorial lines, the Agricultural Ministry, the Environmental Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and so on. Academics are promoted for being experts in specific aspects of individual disciplines. Seldom in our society is the big picture or system understanding rewarded. And yet, sustainable development requires optimization of the system. That is to say, the interactions between humans and between humans and the environment as a whole. Understanding of detail will always be a prerequisite for advancing knowledge of the world we live in. However, the need to bring this detail into a system perspective in order to achieve sustainable development should give cause for us to reconsider how we organize both our educational systems and our administrative infrastructures. The other issue Peter raised is the science policy interface. That is to say, how research results actually become incorporated in policy. Research provides an understanding of the world around us. The better our understanding of the world, the better decisions we can make regarding our interactions with the rest of the world. So, research results clearly have a role to play in a societal transformation towards sustainable development. But how do research results actually make their way into policy? To understand this, we have to consider what research actually is and how it delivers new understanding. Research consists of the collection of observations and an attempt to find the most likely explanation for the observations collected. It is the most likely explanation of the phenomena leading to the observations that is most interesting in terms of policy. Thus, it's very seldom that an individual researcher's results become directly incorporated into policy. An individual researcher's results are added to the body of observations and conclusions relevant for policy are derived from an assessment of the sum total of observations. It is exactly such an assessment of research results that, for example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, is mandated to carry out. Thus, it is the conclusions of the IPCC that provide the basis for climate policy and not the results of individual climate researchers. With respect to sustainability, no such assessment body has yet been established. In connection with the adoption of the SDGs however, an independent group of scientists was established to write the next Global Sustainable Development Report in which status in progress against the SDGs will be presented. As in the case of the IPCC, member country governments nominated the pool of scientists from which the panel was formed. The activities of this independent group of scientists differ from those of the IPCC in that the group is not charged with assessing all of the relevant research observations in arriving at their conclusions. However, there is a certain parallel in that both groups represent science policy bridges designed to make the understanding derived from research and monitoring more accessible to policymakers. It will be interesting to see how effective this group will be in bringing the most up-to-date understanding of what is needed to access a sustainable development trajectory into the policy arena.