A new study commissioned by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and carried out by the Copernicus Institute at Utrecht University assesses the potential impacts of climate change on human health in the Netherlands. The researchers asked health experts to rate the level of uncertainty attached to different health impacts of climate change. As a result, heat-related deaths and vector-borne diseases were indicated as particularly relevant to climate change adaptation.
What was the aim of the study?
To understand how climate change affects our health. This subject is plagued with uncertainties, for example, on the trends for future emissions, how these will affect climate and how changes to our climate will affect society.
About the study’s method
To gain some solid insight into the potential effects on health of climate change, the researchers consulted a range of climate and health experts.
As a result, the researchers determined that the health risks of global warming are wide in scope, stressing, among others, heat-related death and disease, respiratory problems linked to air quality, and pests and vector-borne diseases. Experts were also asked to score the five health effects they considered most relevant to the Dutch climate change adaptation policy.
The main outcomes of the research
For some health impacts, such as allergic eczema, wasp stings and certain vector-borne diseases, it may not even be possible to suggest whether climate change will have a positive or negative effect.
For several others, such as heat- and cold-related deaths, flood deaths, air quality and contamination of swimming water, it would be possible to give a rough estimate of the size of the health impact.
Heat-related deaths and vector-borne diseases were highlighted as being particularly relevant for climate change adaptation.
The results are also of interest to other countries. Yet, certainty over levels for specific effects may vary between countries.
The results suggest approaches to policymaking should take the level of certainty about climate change’s effects on health into account.
The Supplementary Material for paper: “Health risks of climate change: An assessment of uncertainties and its implications for adaptation policies”
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