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Climate change and health

Climate change and health 1 April 2021

What does climate change mean for our health – and can tackling it bring health benefits? (via Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit)

Climate change can affect people’s health in a number of ways: by reducing availability of food and drinking water, increasing extreme weather events like floods and heatwaves, and exacerbating infectious diseases. The poorest countries are likely to be worst affected. However, the scale of impacts is uncertain, and societies can take measures to reduce them in many cases.

Measures to combat climate change could bring health benefits by moderating impacts, and also by reducing air pollution, which currently causes about 30,000 excess deaths each year in the UK and seven million worldwide.

Links between climate change and health

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) groups climate change impacts on health into three categories:

  • direct impacts relate primarily to changes in the frequency of extreme weather events including drought and heavy rain. This also includes heat exhaustion due to the projected increase in extreme heat events
  • changes in natural systems due to warmer (and in some cases, wetter) conditions are changing infectious disease patterns. These include diseases transmitted in water and food, but also those carried by mosquitoes and ticks, like malaria and West Nile virus
  • there are also effects on human and social systems such as social disruption, forced migration, conflict, under–nutrition and mental stress.

Impacts will vary greatly across regions and populations. They will depend on how the climate changes within each region, and on the society’s capacity to respond. In general, the greater action that governments take collectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the lower the impacts are likely to be in future decades.

Read the full ECIU briefing here.