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1.2  Managing the global commons: what are the prospects for climate change and health? The Paris Agreement can be seen as a political triumph and 196 signatories have committed (up to 2030) to reduce GHG emissions and limit climate change to well below a global temperature rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with an aim of limiting increases to 1.5°C. However, current projections show that these objectives are unlikely to be met and intended nationally determined contributions fall short of the necessary reduction to meet the 2°C pathway (IPCC 2018). In the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) analysis (Ebi et al. 2018a), lower risks are projected at 1.5°C than at 2°C for various health effects and in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) analysis (Ciscar et al. 2018) the responses to greater than 2°C rise are contrasted with those from lesser increases in temperature; these projections will be discussed in further detail in subsequent chapters. Whereas the risks to health from climate change have attracted global political attention recently, the potential for vulnerability has been known for some time (see, for example, IPCC 1996; McMichael et al. 1996; Haines et al. 2006). Health impacts may have been relatively neglected in the initial adaptation and mitigation policies of national governments because of various barriers to focusing on the achievement of health benefits, relating to awareness, efficiency, vested interests and structural challenges (Workman et al. 2018). Nonetheless, the avoidance of a high level of immediate mortality in some heatwaves might be considered an example of increasingly effective adaptation planning5. The past relative neglect of multiple health consequences is now being reversed and considerations of impact of climate change on health play an increasing but still relatively peripheral role in the ongoing discussions at the Conference of the Parties of the Paris Climate Agreement and the SDGs. Recent analysis of progress made by the EU and Member States in tackling the SDGs, covering issues for climate action, has been published by the European Commission (2019), drawing on the data by Eurostat6. An introduction to some interactions between the SDGs for climate action (SDG 13) and health (SDG 2) has been made by the International Science Council (2017)7.

Climate change poses increasing challenges for health in Europe and worldwide (EEA 2017a; WHO Europe 2017a). As will be discussed in detail in the following chapters reviewing representative literature, the effects of climate change on human health are manifold. These effects may be direct, for example heat-related excess morbidity and mortality; indirect, for example mediated by vector-borne disease, water extremes (floods and droughts), pollutants, food supplies; or socially mediated, for example via effects on vulnerable groups. In all cases, there will be multiple factors involved. Although the focus on health effects has often been on infectious disease (see, for example, EASAC 2010), the effects on non-communicable diseases are just as important and involve multiple direct and indirect mechanisms (Friel et al. 2011; Frumkin and Haines 2019). While health effects are already manifest, their increase in the absence of climate change mitigation will greatly amplify existing health challenges and inequalities (Smith et al. 2014). There is substantial international consensus, on the scope of climate change effects on human health, among those who advise on policy in this area (Appendix 2), but less evidence on the magnitude of the effects. On the basis of the sources presented in Appendix 2, the balance of health effects is clearly negative8. Nonetheless, the scientific evidence for quantification remains tenuous in some respects, partly because of lack of exposure–response and longitudinal data and partly because of uncertainty in attributing specific health effects to climate amidst many other variables in the complex systems linking environmental change and human health. 1.3  The role of this EASAC report in addressing scientific and societal aspects for the EU EASAC has already covered several significant issues relevant to climate change in Europe, particularly through the work of the Environment and Energy Programmes. Recent EASAC publications have examined the potential of negative emissions technologies to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (EASAC 2018a), the role of ecosystem services provided by forests in mitigating climate change (EASAC 2017a), the difference in GHG emission patterns between different

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For example, the increasing preparedness by Public Health England as evidenced by their Heatwave Plan for England, www.gov.uk/government/publications/heatwave-plan-for-england, published May 2018. See also Chapter 3. 6  Eurostat 2018 report on progress on SDGs, https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/sdi/overview. Earlier OECD analysis (June 2017) is on www.oecd.org/sdd/OECD-Measuring-Distance-to-SDG-Targets.pdf and there is further assessment by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network on www.sdg.org. 7  EASAC is currently participating in a project of the InterAcademies Partnership (IAP) focussing on SDGs, http://www.interacademies.org/36061/Improving-Scientific-Input-to-Global-Policymaking-with-a-focus-on-the-UN-Sustainable-Development-Goals, and IAP is also developing as an open access resource, a database of academies’ work on SDGs, www.interacademies.org/35255/SDG. 8  In many European countries, there is an excess number of deaths in winter months. For example, in the UK, there were approximately 50,000 excess winter deaths in 2017–2018, mainly in women and the over-85s, perhaps partly because of the cold weather but also probably because of the relative ineffectiveness of the influenza vaccine during that season (www.ons.gov.uk, 30 November 2018). The extent to which climate change might decrease the number of excess winter deaths is not clear, particularly if development of more effective influenza vaccines reduces that burden and if there is also an increasing frequency of extreme weather events in the winter.

6  |  June 2019  |  Climate change and health

EASAC

The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe  

Opportunities for adaptation to reduce the impacts and for mitigation to capitalise on the benefits of decarbonisation. The pace and extent...

The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe  

Opportunities for adaptation to reduce the impacts and for mitigation to capitalise on the benefits of decarbonisation. The pace and extent...

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