Climate change

There is growing recognition of the link between climate change and our health and wellbeing. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) believes we must act now to reduce the impact of climate change on the society.

Until recently the focus of the climate change debate has been on rising sea levels and melting ice caps. We are now realising that it also presents one of the most significant challenges to public health we have ever faced, putting at risk the very pillars of life: clean water, sanitation, air quality and food.

We believe that human health must be at the heart of action on climate change. It must be embedded in the political debate, in strategies to change how we live and in how we plan for the future. Environmental health practitioners (EHPs) should be key players in this process

EHPs have the understanding, the skills, and the opportunities to make a significant contribution to what must be a shared priority for all of society. They can make this contribution in three core domains: externally with the businesses, organisations and communities they work with on a daily basis, internally within their own organisations and individually at a personal level.

This work will involve not only developing activities and interventions to help reduce carbon emissions (mitigation) but also preparing for the effects of things such as  more frequent heatwaves and floods, food and water shortages, a rise in infectious diseases and in the incidence of pests and even population movements.

As part of its contribution to climate change activities, the CIEH has created this web based resource specifically for environmental health practitioners (EHPs) to help raise awareness, provide motivation and support.

In the resources below you will find links to two CIEH reports on the health impact of climate change and to our policy briefing note on climate change. The first report – Climate Change and its Health Implications – examines the likely health impact of climate change and presents information and strategies for those working in environmental health in the United Kingdom. The second - Climate Change, Public Health and Health Inequalities - sets out the basic arguments surrounding climate change and calls for action. It discusses major issues facing EHPs like securing a safe food supply and combating pest borne disease. Both reports contain a comprehensive list of references and links for practitioners wishing to examine the issues in greater detail. Links to some of these further reports can be found in the special topic pages listed on the right in the ‘Links to Other Publications’ box.

You will also find a link to a collection of case studies - Our world, our wellbeing, published in March 2011, showing how EHPs are helping to tackle climate change across the UK.

Through this resource and by working with its partners the CIEH is committed to ensuring that EHPs remain equipped to maximise their vital contribution to meeting the climate change challenge.

▼ Climate change and air pollution 

Predicting the impact of climate change on air pollution is difficult. According to the UK Department of Health future ambient concentrations of air pollutants which are hazardous to health will depend both on trends in emissions of primary and precursor pollutants and on trends in meteorological factors which affect dispersal of pollutants and secondary chemical atmospheric processes. Here in the UK it is predicted that the weather conditions associated with winter air pollution episodes will become less common while the weather conditions associated with summer episodes will increase in frequency and intensity. Elsewhere there are concerns about an increase in forest fires releasing pollutants and an increase in dust storms leading to mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Information sources

UK Government reports

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012
Current evidence, recommendations and research gaps
Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside (Editors)
Health Protection Agency, September 2012
Chapter 3. Health effects due to changes in air pollution under future scenarios
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001. 290 pp
Chapter 4.7. Air pollution and climate change. pp 219-250
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002
Dept of Health. 2008. 113 pp
Chapter 7. The health impact of climate change due to changes in air pollution.
pp 91-97
 

Air Pollution: Action in a Changing Climate
DEFRA. March 2010. 23 pp
Policy document summarising the main issues concerning air pollution and outlining the ways in which the interconnections between measures to address air pollution and climate change can be maximised.  

Air Quality and Climate Change: A UK Perspective
Air Quality Expert Group. 2007. 317 pp 

 

International reports

Protecting health in Europe from climate change
Edited by Bettina Menne, Franklin Apfel, Sari Kovats and Francesca Racioppi
WHO Europe 2008, 51 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 7187 1
Reducing respiratory disease. pp 26-27 
 
 

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
A report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change
NIEHS 2010
Asthma, Respiratory Allergies, and Airway Diseases. pp 13-15
 

Air Pollution and Climate Change
Science for Environment Policy. Special issue. Issue 24. November 2010
European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service.
 

 

NGO reports

Climate Change and its Health Implications
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008
Para 7.2. Health effects of air pollution with a changing climate
 

 

Books

The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8
Air quality and disease. pp 43-44
 

Link to Earthscan publications via Routledge  

 
▼ Climate change and environmental health 

Below you will find links to a number of publications looking at the impact of climate change on environmental health as a whole. In the toolbar to the side you will find links to pages containing summaries of the key impacts on particular areas of environmental health with links to further information on these areas. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Further links will be added over the course of time.

UK Government reports

UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017
Synthesis report: priorities for the next five years. July 2016

The National Adaptation Programme: Making the country resilient to a changing climate
Chapter 4. Healthy and resilient communities. July 2013

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012
Current evidence, recommendations and research gaps
Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside (Editors)
Health Protection Agency, September 2012
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001.
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002.
Dept of Health. 2008. 

CIEH Publications

Climate Change and its Health Implications
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008
 

Climate Change, Public Health and Health Inequalities - A resource for environmental health practitioners
CIEH. November 2008 

International Agreements

Doha Declaration on Climate, Health and Wellbeing.
December 2012  

Other Publications

WHO Publications

Operational framework for building climate resilient health systems
WHO, 2015

WHO guidance to protect health from climate change through health adaptation planning, 2014 


Quantative risk assessment of the effects of climate change on selected causes of death, 2030s and 2050s
WHO, 2014

Atlas of Health and Climate
World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). 2012
 

Books

The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8
 

Link to Earthscan bookshop 

Reports

Climate change: health impacts and opportunities. A summary and discussion of the IPCC Working Group 2 report.
The Global Health and Climate Alliance, April 2014
 

Impacts of Climate Change on Occupational Health and Safety
Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), Canada. 2013
ISBN: 978-2-89631-668-7
 

Our Uncashed Dividend. The health benefits of climate action
A briefing paper prepared by the Climate and Health Alliance and
The Climate Institute (Australia). August 2012
 

The health benefits of greenhouse gas reduction policies. Briefing for policy makers
Health and Environment Alliance. October 2012 

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). April 2010 


Web resources

World Health Organisation 

The Global Climate and Health Alliance 

UK Health Alliance on Climate Change 

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Climate Change and Human Health 

The Lancet: Health and Climate Change 

 
▼ Climate change and food safety 

Amongst possible effects of climate change on food safety are the following:

  An increase in food poisoning cases
  An increase in pest contaminants
  Drought conditions may cause power crises and power cuts – impact on refrigeration
  Heavy rainfall may wash farmland contaminants into reservoirs
  Algal blooms may contaminate seafood
  Bacteria in animal feeds may multiply much faster

Other possible effects could be

  A general loss of food production
  A decrease in crop productivity in hotter areas
  Shorter growing seasons leading to food shortages

Information sources

UK Government reports

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001. 290 pp
Chapter 4.2. Food poisoning and climate change, pp 93-98
 

 Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002.
Dept of Health. 2008. 113 pp
Chapter 4. Foodborne Disease and Climate Change. pp 71-75
 

Food and Climate change: A review of the effects of climate change on food within the remit of the Food Standards Agency
Report of a review commissioned by the Food Standards Agency from the University of East Anglia. 2010.
Chapter 8. Climate change and food safety
 

International reports

Climate change: implications for food safety
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
Rome 2008
 

Considers the following areas:

  Crop production
  Animal production
  Fisheries
  Food handling, processing, trading

Considers the following issues:

  Bacteria & viruses
  Zoonoses
  Toxigenic fungi
  Algal blooms
  Environmental contaminants & chemical residues
  Emergency situations

Protecting health in Europe from climate change
Edited by Bettina Menne, Franklin Apfel, Sari Kovats and Francesca Racioppi
WHO Europe 2008, 51 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 7187 1
Protecting nutrition and food safety in a changing climate. pp 20-23
 

Health and climate change: the "now and how" guide. (pdf 35 pp)
A policy action guide
WHO Europe. 2005
pp 24-25. Foodborne and waterborne diseases
 

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
A report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change
NIEHS. 2010
Foodborne diseases and nutrition. pp 25-27
 

Sustainable food systems and health. The convenient truth of addressing climate change while promoting health
U.N Standing Committee on Nutrition/WHO. December 2015 

NGO reports

Cooking up a storm. Food, greenhouse gas emissions and our changing climate
Food Climate Research Network, University of Surrey
September 2008
3.c.viii. Food safety and waste. p. 45.
 

Climate Change and its Health Implications (pdf 84 pp)
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008
Para 5.21. Food poisoning. pp 37-38
 

Books

The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8
 

Drought nutrition and food security. pp 45-47
Food poisoning. pp 47-8
Enhancing food and water security and supplementation. pp 340-345
Link to Earthscan publications via Routledge 

 
▼ Climate change and pest control 

Information sources

UK Government reports

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012
Current evidence, recommendations and research gaps
Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside (Editors)
Health Protection Agency, September 2012
Chapter 8. Effects of climate change on vector-borne diseases
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001. 290 pp
Chapter 4.3. Vector-borne diseases and climate change. pp 101-138
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002
Dept of Health. 2008. 113 pp
Chapter 3. Vector-borne diseases and climate change. pp 34-70
 

Nuisance Insects and Climate Change
Defra. March 2009 

International reports

Protecting health in Europe from climate change
Edited by Bettina Menne, Franklin Apfel, Sari Kovats and Francesca Racioppi
WHO Europe 2008, 51 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 7187 1
Anticipating changes in vector-borne diseases. pp 22-23
 

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
A report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change
NIEHS 2010
Vectorborne and zoonotic diseases. pp 45-59
 

NGO reports

Climate Change and its Health Implications
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008
Para 5.2.2 Vectorborne disease: malaria. tick borne encephalitis; Lyme disease
 

Pest Control - The impact of climate change on pest populations and public health
CIEH. May 2012. 

Books

The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change (Book)
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8

Vector-borne, rodent-borne and other infectious diseases. pp 49-51

Link to Earthscan publications via Routledge  

Other references

Climatic suitability of Aedes albopictus in Europe referring to climate change projections: comparison of mechanistic and correlative niche modelling approaches
D Fischer, S M Thomas, M Neteler, N B Tjaden, C BeierkuhnleinEurosurveillance, Volume 19, Issue 6, 13 February 2014  

Predicting the spread of the tiger mosquito in Europe.
European Commission Science for Environment Policy Bulletin 8 September 2011 

 
▼ Climate change and water 

Both floods and droughts have an impact on human health so any increase in these as a result of climate change will lead to increased health problems. Amongst the predicted possible effects of climate change on water quality are the following:

  • Extreme rainfall events may lead to higher numbers of bacteria and pathogens in surface waters
  • In drought areas there may be an increased likelihood of contaminated surface water reaching groundwater through the opening of short circuits as a result of a lowered water table.
  • Increased temperature and nutrient concentrations in surface water could lead to cyanobacterial blooms occurring more often.
  • Higher temperatures may affect the efficiency of chemical coagulation which could lead to the decreased removal of microbes by subsequent clarification and filtration.

Information sources

UK Government reports

 Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2012
Current evidence, recommendations and research gaps
Sotiris Vardoulakis and Clare Heaviside (Editors)
Health Protection Agency, September 2012
Chapter 7. Health effects of flooding, and adaptation to climate change
 

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK - An expert review for comment
Report of the Expert Group on Climate Change and Health in the UK
Dept of Health. 2001. 290 pp
 

Chapter 4.4. Water-borne diseases and climate change. pp 139-154
Chapter 4.5. Coastal flooding and climate change. pp 177-218

Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008 – an update of the Department of Health Report 2001/2002.
Dept of Health. 2008. 113 pp

Chapter 2. Flooding, windstorms and climate change. pp 23-33
Chapter 5. Water and disease and climate change pp 76-80

Foresight study on flood and coastal defence 2004 

Examines the future risk of flooding and coastal erosion, in terms of parameters including probability of flooding, number of people at high risk, expected annual damage and social flood vulnerability.

Marine Climate Change Impacts Programme 

The United Kingdom Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) brings together scientists, government, its agencies and NGOs to provide co-ordinated advice on climate change impacts around the coast and in the seas.

International reports

Protecting health in Europe from climate change
Edited by Bettina Menne, Franklin Apfel, Sari Kovats and Francesca Racioppi
WHO Europe 2008, 51 pages
ISBN 978 92 890 7187 1
 

Reducing health effects from floods. pp 18-19
Reducing the risk of waterborne diseases. pp 24-25

A Human Health Perspective On Climate Change
A report outlining the research needs on the human health effects of climate change
NIEHS 2010

Waterborne diseases. pp 51-55

When Every Drop Counts: Protecting Public Health During Drought Conditions—A Guide for Public Health Professionals.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 2010

NGO reports

Climate Change and its Health Implications
A summary report for environmental health practitioners on the health implications of climate change
CIEH. November 2008

Chapter 5.3. Water related disease and climate change
Chapter 6. Heath impact from floods
Chapter 9.2. Long-term and emergency planning for floods and related storms
Chapter 9.3 Health and hygiene advice after floods
Chapter 9.5 Water treatment and management/sanitation

Saline intrusion, groundwater and coastal habitat: impacts of sea level rise
A report by Debbie Putt, NERC Intern to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Jan-Apr 2009

Adapting institutions to climate change
Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. 180 pp. 2009

Books

The Health Practitioners Guide to Climate Change
Ed. Jenny Griffiths; Mala Rao; Fiona Adshead; Allison Thorpe
Publisher: Earthscan. 2009. 380 pp. ISBN: 978-1-84407-729-8
 

Miscellaneous references throughout the book

Link to Earthscan publications via Routledge  

Journal Articles

Bathing water disease risk may increase under climate change
EU Science for Environment Policy Bulletin, 28 May 2014. Issue 374

 
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