European scientists have warned climate change is negatively affecting human health and such risks are predicted to increase.
The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) said health risks will increase as climate change intensifies through issues such as a weakening of food and nutrition security and increased incidence and changing distribution of some infections including foodborne and waterborne diseases.
A report from the group calls for communicable disease surveillance and response systems to be strengthened as a priority to improve adaptation to climate change. This will help identify which pathogens, with what effect and over what timescale are the highest priority.
Higher temperatures may be associated with increased antibiotic resistance for pathogens such as E. coli. For Salmonella species, a rise in temperature will increase multiplication and spread in food and heighten the risks of food poisoning. There could also be more norovirus infections related to heavy rainfall and flooding.
The report says action to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep a temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial level could reduce risks to health.
“The systems are complex but we emphasize that the policy actions required will bring benefits to health now and for future generations whatever the extent of the contribution made by climate change in the mix of risk factors,” according to the report.
“The EU must do more to ensure that health impact assessment is part of all proposed initiatives, and that climate and health policy is integrated with other policy priorities including coordinating strategies at EU and national level.”
The impact of climate change in other regions can have consequences in Europe and the EU has responsibilities in addressing problems outside its area, according to EASAC.
Professor Sir Andy Haines, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the scientific community has an important role in generating knowledge and countering misinformation.
“We hope that this comprehensive report will act as a wake-up call and draw attention to the need for action, particularly by pursuing policies to decarbonize the economy. The protection of health must have a higher profile in policies aimed at mitigating or adapting to the effects of climate change,” he said.
EASAC brings together the national science academies of EU member states, Norway, and Switzerland.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned climate change could have a “considerable” impact on food safety and place public health at risk.
The agency said persistence and occurrence of bacteria, viruses, parasites, harmful algae, fungi, and their vectors may be affected as well as patterns of foodborne diseases.
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