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Published: 2021-03-09

A European observatory on climate and health has been launched

NEWS The work to create a European virtual observatory on climate and health has been on-going for some time and the observatory is now up and running. The purpose of the observatory is to give the work on climate and health in Europe increased attention, strengthening the health component of climate adaptation strategies for Europe and at the same time strengthening the climate adaptation component of European health policy.

Researchers at the Faculty of Medicine at Umeå University are invited from the start and lead parts of the research that form the basis for the observatory's work. They are involved in developing data and indicators to monitor how the impact of the climate on health in Europe changes over time and in contributing knowledge to decision-makers.

The European Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA), have several European and international partner organisations engaged in the virtual observatory. The observatory will offer a wide range of resources in the work with climate change and health in Europe (Climate ADAPT). 
Lancet Countdown, which is one of the observatory's partner organizations, has, prior to the opening of the observatory, together with the EEA produced a publication 'Responding to the health risks of climate change in Europe'.

The briefing highlights important examples of health impacts related to climate change that are important for Europe today and in the future and shows opportunities to reduce health risks through climate adaptation policies linked to climate change.

I am happy that the observatory has been established and that the European Commission gives climate and health such a strong focus and that Umeå University through its engagement in the Lancet Countdown becomes part of the work from the start, says Professor Maria Nilsson.

European countries are increasingly affected by weather and climate extremes, which negatively affects both human health and well-being and can lead to fatalities. For example, more European countries suffered from wildfires in 2018 than previously recorded, several in northern and central Europe.

Climate change is altering ecological conditions and some areas in Europe are becoming more suitable for various infectious diseases. In the last five years, for example, the proportion of coastal areas in the Baltic region that are suitable for the occurrence and growth of Vibrio bacteria increased by more than 61%, compared with the baseline in 1980.

The vibrio bacteria can, for example, cause serious and in the worst case fatal wound infections, says Joacim Rocklöv, professor, co-author of the publication.

All EU Member States have national adaptation strategies and/or -plans in place and most have through risk and vulnerability assessments recognized that climate change poses a threat to human health. But the implementation of measures to deal with climate threats to health in Europe is lagging behind and needs to be supported by more knowledge about effective solutions, says Maria Nilsson finally.


Joacim Rocklöv
Visiting professor