Health and climate change

The health impacts of climate change

The climate emergency is a health emergency. Climate change threatens the foundations of good health, with direct and immediate consequences for our patients, the public and the NHS. The situation is getting worse, with nine out of the 10 hottest years on record occurring in the last decade and more than 2,500 people killed by heatwaves across the UK in 2020. Without accelerated action there will be increases in the intensity of heatwaves, more frequent storms and flooding, and increased spread of infectious diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis and vibriosis.

Improving health by tackling climate change

Since 2010, the NHS has reduced its emissions by 30%, (NHS Carbon Footprint) exceeding its commitments under the Climate Change Act.

In doing so, we have learnt that many of the actions needed to tackle climate change directly improve patient care and health and wellbeing.

This is because many of the drivers of climate change are also the drivers of ill health and health inequalities. For example, the combustion of fossil fuels is the primary contributor to ill-health from air pollution. Best estimates suggest that over one-third of new asthma cases might be avoided because of efforts to cut carbon emissions.