Modelling the Health Impacts of Climate Change

A new report suggests that more needs to be done to adapt systems models to adequately reflect the dangers posed to human health by climate change.

Most research on the impacts of climate change has focused on the environmental consequences, rather than the health impacts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict that it is very likely that climate change will increase threats to human health. Direct impacts are posed by an increase in the incidence of extreme temperature and weather events, whilst indirect effects could be the increase in infectious disease, for example malaria, caused by warmer temperatures and changes in the hydrologic cycle.

Modelling the health impacts of, for example, malaria, and how this may change under climate change scenarios, is complex, due to the range of factors which can affect the geographic range of the vector, such as drug resistance and economic development. The report suggests that new models should better account for these drivers and develop country-specific projections of risk.

The priorities of healthcare funders are identified as one of the key factors limiting development of these models. To date, healthcare funders have had little interest in developing interdisciplinary models – for example modelling the interaction between land-use and climate change on human health.