John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Climate change and health Volume 14, issue 5, Septembre-Octobre 2015

468, chemin des Fontaines
83470 Saint-Maximin la Sainte-Baume
* Tirés à part
  • Key words: climate change, health impact assessment, morbidity, mortality, public health
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2015.0813
  • Page(s) : 394-414
  • Published in: 2015

There is now strong evidence that the earth's climate is changing rapidly, mainly due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. It suggests that the trend will continue to grow in the coming decades. For some time now, the question of the direct and indirect effects of climate change on public health has been a major topic of debate. However, it is never easy to separate the plausible from the unlikely, or science from either disinformation or activist bias. The aim of this paper is to present a review of current knowledge and hypotheses on the subject, focusing on key points for which significant advances have been made since 2012. Direct observed and projected effects on health include primarily thermal stresses due to the increased frequency, intensity, or persistence of heat waves, which can trigger heat exhaustion and heatstroke as well as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Any decrease in cold-related deaths cannot outweigh this increase in those related to heat. Other extreme weather events, such as long drought periods, severe storms, heavy precipitation, and tropical cyclones, can also have adverse outcomes and cause injury and death. Among the indirect effects of climate change are the alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and of safe water supplies, the worsening of air quality, and all of their consequences for infectious (especially vector-borne) diseases. In conclusion, the nature and extent of the potential effects of climate evolution will vary markedly on the earth's surface depending on climate type, socioeconomic context, demographic structure, and each country's resilience.