Climate warning
Image of European Environment Agency

European Environment Agency

Climate warning

Climate change is causing more ‘heat stress’ in Europe

The severity of the current and projected impacts of climate on health in Europe call for a stepping up of action in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Heatwaves cause the largest number of deaths among weather- and climate-related events in Europe. Over the next few decades, more frequent extreme heat episodes and increasing vulnerability of the population to extreme heat will lead to a substantial increase in morbidity and mortality unless adaptation measures are taken. Increasingly frequent, long and intense heatwaves in combination with an ageing population and growing urbanisation mean that more vulnerable populations are exposed to high temperatures, particularly in southern and central Europe. The location of many schools and hospitals in areas experiencing the urban heat island effect, further exacerbating high temperatures, calls for urgent adaptation of those facilities. Increasing temperatures in Europe also affect occupational health and safety, with an average annual loss of 16 hours per worker (compared with the 20th century baseline) in highly exposed sectors, with the largest losses in southern Europe. Climatic conditions across Europe are becoming more suitable for emergence and transmission of climate-sensitive infectious diseases, which may particularly affect those working in agriculture, forestry or emergency services (through higher exposure) or the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems (through higher vulnerability). The projected lengthening of the transmission season and wider distribution of mosquito species that act as vectors for malaria and dengue, combined with the growing number of travel-imported disease cases, increases the likelihood of local outbreaks. Higher temperatures increase the risk of West Nile fever outbreaks in central, eastern and southern Europe and expand the risk of transmission to previously unaffected areas of northern and western Europe. The warming sea waters are increasingly suitable for the dangerous Vibrio bacteria, in particular along the Baltic Sea coastlines. Reducing the health impacts of heat requires implementing a wide range of solutions, including effective heat health action plans, urban greening, appropriate building design and construction, and adjusting working times and conditions. Effective monitoring of vectors and disease surveillance enable the development of early warnings and targeting of vector control or vaccination. Cross-sectoral collaboration between public health and the built environment, spatial planning and employment sectors is needed to prevent climate threats where people live and work. Interventions aimed at reducing exposure to heat or diseases should prioritise vulnerable groups, as well as people and locations that are particularly exposed. Adapting to the existing and emerging health threats arising from climate change requires better preparedness of the health sector through increasing awareness, improving knowledge and widening engagement of public health and healthcare professionals; improving the resilience of healthcare facilities to climate hazards; and ensuring that health systems have the capacity to respond to increased demand for patient care or diagnostics. The need to better understand and address the impacts of climate change on human health and well-being is increasingly recognised in EU and national policies, albeit the subject is covered to a greater extent in policies focused on adaptation than those focused on health. At the local level, the engagement of health or social care stakeholders with climate adaptation planning remains low.

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  • zelda ninga

    11 w

    This should serve as a warning to those who are still relying on fossil fuels.

    • We Don't Have Time

      61 w

      Dear johnte ndeto Thank you for getting your climate warning to level 2! We have reached out to European Environment Agency and requested a response. I will keep you updated on any progress! /Adam We Don't Have Time

      • Joseph Githinji

        61 w

        We need necessary action to be applied .

        • George Kariuki

          61 w

          It's high time we take the necessary steps.

          • Munene Mugambi

            61 w

            The expectation is for them to pull up their socks and do something for the climate

            • Tabitha Kimani

              61 w

              It's time to accelerate climate restoration actions.

              • johnte ndeto

                61 w

                Extreme weather events, such as devastating floods, extensive wildfires or intense and long-lasting heatwaves, that are more likely and more severe due to the changing climate have become part of our reality in recent years.

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