Climate change also has a negative impact on human health through heat waves, summer smog, infectious diseases, contaminated food and water, and hay fever and allergies. The effects also depend on the degree of adaptation. In a debate, co-organized by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, scientists and experts expressed their concerns about the lack of attention from research and policy, while more insight into this could contribute to climate-proofing the Netherlands.
Limited attention to climate impact on health
In the Netherlands, attention to the influence of climate change on public health is limited. Policy to respond effectively to these effects is largely missing. On 18 September, around 100 scientists and experts expressed their concerns about this during a debate. We are not ready in the Netherlands, they concluded, for a major outbreak of climate-related infectious diseases or for heat stress due to prolonged heat waves.
Climate change not only affects sea level, water drains and nature, but also human health. More heat waves and summer smog; more infectious diseases and more activities of pathogenic animals, insects and parasites. More chance of infection from contaminated food and water. Hay fever and other allergies are also increasing. The extent of these effects on health in the Netherlands cannot yet be clearly specified. That also depends on the ability to adapt.
Debate on ‘climate change and health’
The research programs ‘Knowledge for Climate’ and ‘Climate for Space’ organized a debate on 18 September in collaboration with the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, ICIS Maastricht and Wageningen University to raise the importance of ‘climate change and health’ with the attention of politicians to bring.
The most recent insights into new threats, cause and effect were reviewed. We discussed what awaits us in the area of health through climate change, what the government can do about it, what knowledge is still missing and what adaptation strategies are. Topics for discussion included whether recent outbreaks of viruses (dengue fever, West Nile) in Italy and America could also occur in the Netherlands.
Scientists and experts are concerned about the lack of attention in the area of research and policy on this theme. They want to jointly prepare a research agenda. The outcomes of the debate will contribute to the development of such a research agenda and possibly to a targeted policy agenda.