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Impacts of climate change in human health in Europe. PESETA-Human health study

  • Authors: Paul Watkiss, Lisa Horrocks, Stephen Pye, Alison Searl and Alistair Hunt
  • EUR Number: 24135 EN
  • Publication date: 12/2009


The most important health effects from future climate change are projected to include: increases in summer heat related mortality (deaths) and morbidity (illness); decreases in winter cold related mortality and morbidity; changes in the disease burden e.g. from vector-, water- or food-borne disease; increases in the risk of accidents and wider well being from extreme events (storms and floods). The PESETA health project has assessed these effects in Europe. These include both positive and negative effects on health, and show strong patterns of regional variation across Europe.
The analysis has undertaken a detailed bottom-up analysis of summer and winter temperature-related mortality. This shows that Europe’s changing climate will have significant additional effects on heat and cold related mortality, measured in tens of thousand of deaths each year (and economic effects measured in tens of billions of Euro). The analysis has also undertaken a detailed bottom-up analysis of food borne disease in Europe which shows that the additional number of cases (particularly with under reporting of disease levels) could be significant in terms of both physical impacts (tens of thousands of cases per year) and economic costs (billions). Finally, the study has progressed an initial analysis of the mental health effects of coastal flooding (linking the output from one of the other PESETA sectoral projects), which shows that under high sea level rise scenarios, the number of cases and economic costs could also be significant.
A consideration of adaptation, whether through addressing heat exposure, through control of food borne disease, or through flood protection, shows that it offers significant reductions in impacts at potentially low cost. A number of possible policy responses are also identified. The most important of these relate to further extension or refinement of the heat health warning systems emerging in Europe.

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