Climate, environment and health
Flooded area in Belet Weyne, Somalia. Copyright UN Photo / IIyas Ahmed.
In March 2019, a funding call of approximately €10.6 million was launched by the Belmont Forum, in collaboration with Future Earth.
This call aims to improve understanding of the pathways between climate, environment, and health to protect and promote human health and well-being in the face of climate challenges. Multilateral, inter- and transdisciplinary research projects will investigate where significant uncertainties exist that are barriers to action; address complex climate, ecosystem and health pathways to determine processes underlying causal links; and foster the use of scientific information and climate-related decision support tools to better inform planning and enhance resilience.
The call prioritises the following themes of research as those presenting significant climate risks to health with opportunities to protect and promote health:
- food systems and nutrition
- heat and health
- climate-sensitive infectious diseases.
18 Mar 2019
Applications are invited for multilateral, inter- and transdisciplinary research projects which seek to improve understanding of the pathways between climate, environment and health.
Climate change is a serious threat to human health, as recently highlighted in the 'Summary for Policymakers' of the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5°C (IPCC SR1.5) - external link. This global alert follows the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's conclusions in the 2015 Paris Agreement, World Meteorological Organization's 'State of the Global Climate Report' and the '2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development'.
The World Health Organisation estimates that between 2030 and 2050 climate change is expected to cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year due to malaria, malnutrition, diarrhoea and heat stress. The direct damage costs to health are estimated at $2-4 billion per year by 2030, and areas with weak health infrastructures (mostly in developing countries) will be the least able to prepare and respond. Ambient temperature and extreme heat events are already on the rise, and increasing sea levels further exacerbate the health impacts of more frequent and intense weather events like hurricanes and cyclones.
The IPCC SR1.5 report suggests that any increase in global warming is projected to affect human health, with primarily negative outcomes. Climate variability, change and the associated environmental consequences impact physical and mental health through a variety of pathways, that interact with changes in the built environment and ecosystem degradation. Increased exposure to multiple climate-related health threats, together with changes in sensitivity and the ability to adapt to those threats, increases an individual's vulnerability and influences behaviour and can also compound and cascade climate-related health effects. Consequently, the impacts of climate variability and change can interact with underlying health, human behaviour and socioeconomic factors to change the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate factors, as well as create unprecedented health problems or health threats in novel locales.
The IPCC SR1.5 report recognises the existence of significant health risks in the context of climate change at 1.5°C, especially in key areas such as health, livelihoods, food security (including nutrition), water supply, human security and economic growth.
Climate, environment and health research can help to reduce uncertainty about how local conditions may be affected from a season to decades ahead, provide insight into local solutions, and build evidence to strengthen decision making.
This call covers the following three themes:
- Food systems and nutrition - changes in climate and associated water availability / scarcity impact the quality and quantity of food from land and the oceans.
- Heat and health - chronic exposure to heat and humidity (beyond episodic heatwaves) leads to impacts on behavioural, physical and mental health and mortality.
- Climate-sensitive infectious diseases - climate and changes in the way we use land and the oceans can accelerate biodiversity loss and lead to changes in the distribution and incidence of a range of infectious diseases and emergence of novel pathogens.
2019 - 2023
There is a combined international budget of approximately €12 million. The UK (NERC, the Medical Research Council and the Economic & Social Research Council) budget stands at €3.4 million.
In June 2020, nine awards were announced on the Belmont Forum website (external link). UK researchers are participating in seven of the consortia, supported at a level of approximately £3.3 million.