Climate breakdown to bring new challenges to health in the UK

The global rise of temperatures is set to change the health landscape in the UK, with the appearance of new and infectious diseases, growing risk of antimicrobial resistance

December 14, 2023 by Peoples Health Dispatch

Climate change in the United Kingdom is certain to impact health, as indicated by the UK Health Security Agency. The increasing effects of heat-related incidents are already noticeable throughout the country, affecting both people’s wellbeing and placing additional financial stress on the health system.

In addition to rising temperatures, the likelihood of new and infectious diseases emerging will increase, along with a surge in excess deaths and added strain on health services. The report underscores the dangers associated with fluctuations in heat and cold temperatures, the occurrence of wildfires, droughts, flooding, and the risks posed by vector-borne diseases. In the coming decades, the UK may witness the emergence of diseases such as dengue and the West Nile virus. 

If global warming is not limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the climate changes are likely to have a detrimental impact on mental health. The report also predicts that these climate-related changes will increase the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). While an estimated 10 million people are projected to die due to AMR by 2050, this number could escalate if the increasing temperatures are not addressed. 

Although the health-related consequences of climate change will affect the entire UK population, the report emphasizes “clear geographical and sociodemographic differences.” Those most affected will include populations with limited ability to change their living conditions or lifestyles, such as children, individuals over 65, the homeless, prison populations, and those under the care of social services. 

The report warns that under optimistic scenarios of low warming, temperatures will likely peak in the mid- to late-century, coinciding with the working age of a child born today. In this case, individuals who are currently of working age and will be in retirement when the peak impact occurs, along with today’s young children, will face the most challenging adaptation process. However, if temperature growth exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, the impact will extend much further, bringing unknown consequences for the health of future generations. 

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by thePeople’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and subscription to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.