The causes of antibiotic resistance are complex and include human behaviour at many levels of society; the consequences affect everybody in the world. Similarities with climate change are evident. Many efforts have been made to describe the many different facets of antibiotic resistance and the interventions needed to meet the challenge. However, coordinated action is largely absent, especially at the political level, both nationally and internationally. Antibiotics paved the way for unprecedented medical and societal developments, and are today indispensible in all health systems. Achievements in modern medicine, such as major surgery, organ transplantation, treatment of preterm babies, and cancer chemotherapy, which we today take for granted, would not be possible without access to effective treatment for bacterial infections. Within just a few years, we might be faced with dire setbacks, medically, socially, and economically, unless real and unprecedented global coordinated actions are immediately taken. Here, we describe the global situation of antibiotic resistance, its major causes and consequences, and identify key areas in which action is urgently needed. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.