Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Climate, environment and health

The aim of this programme is to improve understanding of the pathways between climate, environment and health so that we can better protect and promote human health and wellbeing in the face of climate challenges.

Budget:
The combined international budget is approximately €12 million. The UK budget is £3.3 million.
Duration:
2019 to 2023
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), Chinese Taipei Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), Cote d’Ivoire Programme d'appui stratégique à la recherche scientifique (PASRES), Academy of Finland (AKA), Research Council of Norway (RCN), Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (Forte), Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsradet), Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), US National Institutes of Health (NIH), US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US National Science Foundation (NSF), US National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

The scope and what we're doing

In March 2019, a funding opportunity with a budget of approximately €10.6 million was launched by the Belmont Forum, in collaboration with Future Earth.

This funding opportunity aims to improve understanding of the pathways between climate, environment and health to protect and promote human health and wellbeing 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
  • foster the use of scientific information and climate-related decision support tools to better inform planning and enhance resilience.

The funding opportunity 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 – changes in climate and associated water availability or 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.

Why we're doing it

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). 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 Organization 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 to $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 International Panel for Climate Change 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 International Panel for Climate Change 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.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Who to contact

For all questions

Email: healthyenvironment@nerc.ukri.org

Last updated: 31 March 2022

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