UK and global effects of climate on health

Air Pollution

Air pollution is estimated to have killed 6.7 million people globally in 2019 and 373,000 in Europe.[7] 37,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution, with a recent report finding that more than 97% of addresses exceed WHO limits for at least one of three key pollutants [link]. An increase in allergens,wildfires, dust storms and fossil fuel emssions worsen existing respiratory conditions [8]. Air pollution has been linked to: acute and chronic respiratory conditions, heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, dementia and pregnancy complications.

Extreme heat

Scientists predict annual heatwaves if our planet warms by 2C. In 2022 there were approx 3000 excess deaths associated in the UK linked to heatwaves, the highest number in any given year.[9] Hot weather increases the risk of many health problems, particularly heart, circulatory and kidney problems. The elderly, young children and people with chronic medical conditions are at highest risk. Asthma exacerbations are more common with high temperatures as air quality is often affected.

Mental health

Poor mental health can result from extreme weather events and evacuations, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People can also feel anxious about the threat that climate change presents to their homes, communities, and way of life.

Extreme Weather Events

Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity due to climate change. This has become more apparent with recent floods in UK, Europe and Bangladesh and fires in Greece, Canada and USA. These can cause death and injury in the short term, respiratory problems and mental health problems such as stress and anxiety in the longer term. Such weather events also cause a loss of people’s homes and livelihoods. For example in Pakistan in 2022, eight million people, almost the population of London, were displaced due to floods. 

Vector And Water Borne Diseases

As the climate changes, the geographic range of diseases carried by insects, such as malaria and dengue carried by mosquitoes, or schistosomiasis carried by snails, increases. Diseases like malaria may become more commonplace in Europe, and the geographic range of tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease are also increasing. Globally, warmer water temperatures and flooding mean that water borne diseases like cholera will increase. Dengue fever is already widespread in Asia, Africa and the Americas and has already been transmitted within Spain, Italy, France and Croatia [10]

Water And Food Security

In the UK and across the world, our water and food supplies are threatened by climate change. Flooding can contaminate drinking water and crops, whilst droughts, high temperatures, rising sea levels, and melting permafrost can threaten water supplies, disrupt food supply chains, and reduce crop yield. Impacts of extreme weather elsewhere in the world affect food prices in the UK and so can worsen food poverty and malnutrition.