European countries are facing increasing threats from climate change, including extreme weather events and infectious diseases. A new briefing by the Lancet Countdown and the European Environment Agency (EEA), published on the European Climate and Health Observatory, draws attention to health impacts of climate change in the European Union (EU) and suggests key actions to address them.
The briefing ’Responding to the health risks of climate change in Europe’ highlights key health impacts from climate change as well as opportunities to reduce climate-related health risks through adaptation policies aligned with mitigation actions. The briefing is a joint effort of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change (a global collaboration of academic institutions and international agencies) and the EEA.
Climate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in global public health through extreme heatwaves, threats to food and water systems, and changing patterns of infectious diseases.
Weather and climate extremes are already leading to fatalities and negative health effects in Europe, the briefing reminds. Moreover, vulnerability to heat extremes continues to increase in Europe, due to a growing urban population, chronic health conditions becoming more common, and an increasing number of old people. At the same time, climate change is making some areas in Europe more suitable for various infectious diseases, including dengue fever, Vibrio infections and West Nile fever.
The briefing notes that, while all EU member states have strategies or plans for adaptation, actions addressing the climate threats to health lag behind and could be supported by more knowledge on effective solutions. Moreover, at the local level, adaptation to climate change remains in the domain of the spatial planning, urban design, or environmental departments, and public health professionals should get more involved.
European Climate and Health Observatory
The briefing is published on the new European Climate and Health Observatory, an online platform that provides easy access to a wide range of resources about climate change and health.
The Observatory is a joint project of the European Commission, the EEA and other contributors, which is hosted on Climate-ADAPT by the EEA. It is the first concrete deliverable of the European Commission’s new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change. This Strategy, which was announced in the European Green Deal, is a key component in making Europe climate-neutral and climate-resilient by 2050.