Education And Debate

Climate change and human health in Europe

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 19 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1682
  1. R Sari Kovats, research fellow ([email protected])a,
  2. Andrew Haines, professor of primary careb,
  3. Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, consultant epidemiologistc,
  4. Pim Martens, senior environmental health scientistd,
  5. Bettina Menne, associate professional officer in public healthe,
  6. Roberto Bertollini, directore
  1. aDepartment of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. bRoyal Free and University College London Medical School, London NW3 2PF
  3. cPublic Health Laboratory Service Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, London NW9 5EQ
  4. dInternational Centre for Integrative Studies, University of Maastricht, PO Box 616, 6200MD Maastricht, Netherlands
  5. eWorld Health Organisation European Centre for Environment and Health, I-00187 Italy
  1. Correspondence to: R S Kovats

    Editorials by Brundtland and Pershagen

    Evidence that our world is warming has become stronger in recent years. Scientists have now confirmed that these changes are due to human activities.1 This century the average annual temperature in most of Europe has increased by about 0.8°C.2 Warming has been particularly great during the past two decades and in the middle to high latitudes (fig 1). In the Alps, temperature increases have exceeded 1°C above the long term mean. Northern Europe has become wetter, but a region encompassing the Mediterranean and central Europe has become significantly drier.2 Scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast a 1°C-3.5°C increase in average global temperature by 2100.1 Although there is considerable uncertainty in forecasting regional and local changes in climate in Europe, it is likely that these observed trends will continue.2

    The potential impact of a global climate change on human health has been identified as a priority for research and action in the next century, and this will be debated at a forthcoming ministerial conference on the environment and health. Our paper reviews the state of current knowledge for the WHO European region. Climate change will not affect human health in isolation, but will do so simultaneously with other ecological and demographic changes. It should be noted that effects on other regions surrounding Europe (Africa and Asia) may be of considerable importance for the European region as well.

    Summary points

    • Europe has experienced significant warming in recent decades, and this is likely to continue

    • Climate warming and changes in rainfall patterns may have significant and wide ranging impacts on health, including changes in thermal stress and in the distribution and seasonality of vectorborne diseases

    • An increased risk of flooding of rivers with associated effects on health is forecast in Europe

    • Some …

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