Health Impact Assessment

Impacts of Climate Change on Health and the Economy

What do the results tell us?

The socioeconomic impacts of the health effects were estimated under the worst climate change scenario: as if the present European economies were suddenly struck by a climatic change equal to the RCP8.5 projection for 2090, with increases in mean temperature between 2.4 °C (British Islands) and 4 °C (Southern Europe).

The results indicate that heat stress and infectious diseases will cause most of the health effects related to mortality and productivity losses. Heat stress is the most important cause of deaths.  Climate change may reduce cold-related mortality, but less than the increase related to heat stress in all regions. Extreme events are only seldom mortal and do not cause large productivity losses, but are the most important cause of hospitalization in many regions.

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What can we do with the results?

Integrating available knowledge on health effects in a socioeconomic tool opens for a broader analysis of adaptation strategies.

ToPDAd's study shows that the health effects of climate change go beyond mortality and increased hospitalization and are related to other economic activities. The tool that was used for this study, LAMENT, allows for estimation of the regional costs and impacts on the labour market, and further social consequences such as unemployment and wage differentiation.

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How are the results obtained?

There is substantial uncertainty about how health will be affected by climate change - both about which health effects are possible and about the magnitude of the effects. There is very little quantitative information available. Based on a literature survey, this study attempted to quantify linkages between climate indicators and selected health effects, and productivity loss under threshold temperatures. Quantifying was possible only for mortality under heat and cold stress. The remaining estimates are based on assumptions about hospitalization and productivity losses for each cause of health effects. 

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What are the broader applications?

This study assessed how the health effects of climate change will affect socio-economic conditions and the labour market on average, over a potentially broad range of local responses. The modelling of averages assumes that adaptation takes place continuously without major barriers. On average, for the large European regions studied here, the consequences for unemployment and wage differentiation may seem small.

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Key Messages and Conclusions

Economic impacts will mostly be related to hospitalization and productivity losses.

Most of the research on health effects of climate change has been focusing on mortality due to heat stress. Our results indicate, however, that the economic impacts are related primarily to hospitalizations and productivity losses, which there is little knowledge about. These impacts are not only a result of higher temperatures, but also more extreme events, increased risk of infectious diseases and changes in air quality.

The socioeconomic impacts of health effects are related primarily to increasing demand for health services and declining productivity of labour above certain temperature levels. There are few estimates available, but assumptions based on the limited knowledge we have suggest that hospital admissions in Europe may increase between 300 000 and 800 000 hospital  admissions per year  depending on region. The decline in productivity corresponds to between 200 000 and 700 000 years depending on region, which corresponds to between 1.2 and 2.8 of total labour force. This has implications for the labour markets, and for unemployment. How much and to what extend depend critically on policies implemented to adapt.

 

Mortality due to different health effects of climate change in European regions if the climate changed as in RCP8.5/SSP5.

 

Hospitalization due to different health effects of climate change in European regions if the climate changed as in RCP8.5/SSP5.

 

Loss of productivity by workers because of different health effects of climate change in European regions if the climate changed as in RCP8.5/SSP5.

Impacts on unemployment of health effects of climate change by European region, with increased costs for hospitalization covered and uncovered.