Climate change and its impact on lung health: a focus on Europe – September 07, 2021

climate change and lung health

Climate change is a health issue with particular effects on respiratory health. This research summarises the direct and indirect evidence that links climate change to lung health and maps out policy priorities to prevent and curb the effects of climate change on lung health.

This independent report is the result of multiple research phases. First, we conducted a pragmatic literature review of the evidence and policy frameworks across the academic and grey literature to develop an initial set of policy priorities. Second, we convened an advisory board on May 19, 2021, drawn from the academic, climate change, environment and healthcare sectors, whose advice shaped the priorities of the study and the content of the report. Third, we conducted 12 interviews with respiratory clinicians, academics, policymakers and climate change and health experts to obtain an in-depth view of the issues involved. Finally, supporting the research, and feeding into this publication, has been substantial desk research.

There is evidence that emissions linked to global warming have an adverse impact on respiratory health, in particular emissions from combustion of fossil fuels and biomass by power stations, industry, homes and vehicles.

The need for action is recognized by the environmental sector and increasingly by the heath sector and the European general public, who are also beginning to demand tougher action. More awareness of climate change’s impact on lung health among these groups is vital for effecting change.

There is only so much one engaged individual can do in terms of cutting emissions and living sustainably. Mass change is needed, and most importantly the policies and systems in societies—controlled by governments and public authorities—need to support efforts to reduce emissions and tackle climate change.

Increasing awareness among the health sector and the general public of the need for urgent action on climate change is the path to achieving it by putting pressure on politicians to act.