Extreme temperatures associated with heat waves and cold spells cause increased mortality and morbidity. As a result of global climate change and increased average temperatures, it is expected that there will be more heat waves and fewer days of extreme cold in Europe in the future. The objective of the interdisciplinary HEAT consortium is to contribute to increased knowledge about how climate change will affect public health in different population groups in Europe, what implications the health effects will have on economy and welfare, and what measures will most effectively reduce negative health effects of climate change. Based on three pilot studies focusing on methodological development, and extensive network activity, we aimed at positioning ourselves towards relevant calls within H2020 and other international funding sources.
In the first pilot study we investigated how Nordic registries can be utilized to study the relationship between climate and cardiovascular disease outcomes. This was done by combining data from Nordic registries on disease-specific mortality and morbidity with meteorological data and air quality data.
In the second pilot study we looked at how results from climate models can be linked to epidemiological analyses in order to project health effects. There are many indicators in use to measure thermal stress in humans. Based on a literature review of a range of indicators of thermal stress in humans, and climate parameters from various climate scenarios (including temperature and relative humidity), we calculate how a selection of these indicators evolve under different climate scenarios.
In the third pilot study we investigated how health effects of climate change can be integrated into macroeconomic analyses. Estimates of socio-economic consequences of environment-related disease and death have so far often been based on a single unit price per case. This gives a very limited picture. In this work package we use a macroeconomic model to study how the broader consequences for economy and society can be modeled.
The HEAT consortium succeeded with its H2020 proposal EXHAUSTION (Exposure to heat and air pollution in Europe - cardiopulmonary impacts and benefits of mitigation and adaptation) led by CICERO. The 4 years project (2019-2023) started July 2019 and has 14 partners from 10 European countries (Grant Agreement 820655, about 6.7 million Euros). EXHAUSTION includes all topics targeted in HEAT, but now with a full European focus. The HEAT consortium has contributed as partners to two other H2020 proposals submitted in 2019 (not funded). Two of the HEAT partners have succeeded with to research proposals to the Belmont Forum, of which one is closely related to the topic of HEAT and EXHAUSTION. The HEAT-consortium is also leading a H2020 Cooperation and Support Action proposal due 13 February 2020.
The consortium has published two articles in peer reviewed journals that analyse, respectively, impacts of heat stress on worker productivity in Europe and heat stress impacts on cardiovascular mortality among Nepali migrant workers in Qatar. A paper focusing on how a selection of health relevant climate indicators (e.g. Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, WBGT) scale with global warming has been submitted.
A main contribution of HEAT is to build an alliance of medical and public health expertise, climate modellers, and socioeconomic modellers, which has been initiated and brought into ongoing and potential future EU activities and projects.
Air pollution is a well-known cause of ill health in Europe. Recent heat waves in Europe are estimated to have killed thousands of people, but the quantitative relationship between death and disease rates and heat waves, and the role of co-exposure to air pollutants, is not established. Moreover, how health impacts from extreme temperatures affect the broader economy, for instance through enhanced need for health services and changes in worker productivity, is not known. In light of the projected increased occurrence and extreme temperatures of heat waves in Europe there is an urgent need for enhanced understanding of the vulnerability among population groups and countries and what are effective interventions for mitigation and adaptation.
The health impacts of high temperatures and air pollution are to a large extent rooted in health conditions where the cardiovascular and/or respiratory system is being compromised. The prevalence of these diseases is projected to rise due to an aging population in Europe. To enable the health sector to guide on effective adaptive measures, an improved understanding of the physiological and behavioural mechanisms behind heat stress and the impact on mortality and morbidity rates is needed. This knowledge must be linked to output from climate modelling in order to project the future health burden and the need for adaptive and mitigating interventions. Finally, an improved understanding and communication of the potential economic and societal consequences of heat-related health effects are needed to motivate more ambitions climate policies. The proposed collaboration will develop a methodological framework for integrating health risks of heat waves into a broader tool for evaluating the societal impacts of the health risks. We use data from Nordic countries to carry out pilot studies and test the framework with available data and projections, aiming at a broader application in EU and other parts of the world in future research.