Data and statistics

Climate change affects major social and environmental determinants of health, such as availability and quality of drinking water, ecosystems, agriculture and food production, economic development and migration.

  • According to current projections, droughts will strongly increase in frequency and intensity the coming decades in large areas of south and southeastern Europe (all Mediterranean countries, Bulgaria, Hungary, Portugal,  Republic of Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, and the southern part of the Russian Federation).1
  • If no action is taken, food productivity is projected to decrease in the Mediterranean area, southeastern Europe and central Asia, threatening food security. Crop yields could decrease by up to 30% in central Asia by the middle of the 21st century. This may lead to a worsening of malnutrition, especially among the rural poor.1,2

Climate change also increases the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

  • Floods in the European Region affected 3.4 million people and killed more than 1000 in the period from 2000 to 2011. Climate change is projected to increase the occurrence and frequency of flood events in large areas of Europe.3 Without adaptation, the number of people potentially affected by flooding every year by 2085 could increase from 775 000 to 5.5 million.4
  • The intensity of rainstorms has increased throughout Europe during the past 50 years, and it is estimated that heavy rainfall will increase in frequency and intensity in the coming decades. Heavy precipitation increases erosion and the likelihood of flooding.5
  • In 2003, the WHO European Region suffered its strongest heat-wave ever. Over 70 000 excess deaths were reported from 12 European countries. The elderly are most at risk of death from heat-stroke and cardiovascular, renal, respiratory and metabolic disorders caused by high temperatures. Without adaptation, heat-related mortality is projected to increase across Europe, particularly in the South.6

Climate change affects air pollution and the pollen season.

  • Air pollution causes and is worsened by climate change. In addition to carbon dioxide (CO2), the combustion of fossil fuels produces a wide range of short-lived air pollutants with global warming and cooling effects. Some of these pollutants account for most of the direct damage to human health from global energy use. Over 80% of Europeans are exposed to particulate matter (PM) concentrations exceeding the WHO Air Quality Guidelines, reducing the life expectancy of each citizen by an average of nearly 9 months.7
  • Global warming has extended the pollen season in Europe by an average of 10–11 days over the last 30 years. The amount of airborne pollen is also increasing in Europe, in urban more than in semi-rural or rural areas. Scientists believe that increases in airborne pollen account for part of the strong increase in the burden of respiratory allergic diseases worldwide.8

Some vector-borne diseases are climate sensitive.

  • Lyme Borreliosis is the most common vector-borne disease in Europe, with more than 90 000 cases reported annually. It is transmitted by ticks from the genus Ixodes, which can also transmit tick-borne encephalitis. Global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases in Europe by allowing ticks to survive at higher altitudes and at more northern latitudes.9, 10
  • Since its establishment in Europe in the 1990s, the mosquito vector Aedes Albopictus (which can transmit viral diseases such as dengue) has significantly expanded its geographical range; and due to climate change large areas in the Region are projected to become climatically suitable for this vector  in the near future.11
  • In the United Kingdom it is estimated that, with temperature increases, the risk of local malaria transmission could increase by 8–15% by 2050. In Portugal, the number of days suitable for survival or malaria vectors is projected to increase. Malaria is unlikely to re-establish itself in Europe  with the region’s health systems in place and adequately functioning, but it might be introduced sporadically due to global travel and trade.

Global warming can increase food- and water-borne diseases.

  • Several pathogens thrive with warmer temperatures, which can contribute to an increase in the incidence of food-borne and water-borne diseases. For example, by the period 2071–2100, climate change could cause an additional 50% in temperature-related cases of Salmonella infection than expected without climate change.12

  1. Lehner, B., et al., Estimating the impact of global change on flood and drought risks in europe: A continental, integrated analysis. Climatic Change, 2006. 75(3): p. 273-299.
  2. European Environment Agency. Joint EEA–JRC–WHO report. Impacts of Europe’s changing climate—2008 indicator-based assessment. Copenhagen, 2008.
  3. Jakubicka T et al. Health impacts of floods in Europe: data gaps and information needs from a spatial perspective. A MICRODIS report. Brussels, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, 2010.
  4. Ciscar et al. Physical and economic consequences of climate change in Europe. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences 108(7), 2678-2683
  5. Alcamo J et al. Europe. Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. In: Parry ML et al., eds. Contribution of working group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007:541–580.
  6. Ballester J, et al. (2011) Long term projections and acclimatization scenarios of temperature-related mortality in Europe. Nature communications 2, 358.
  7. EEA (2013). Air pollution in Europe – 2013 update. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, Denmark. Available online at 
  8. Ziello et al. 2012. Changes to airborne pollen counts across Europe. PLoS ONE 7(4): e34076. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034076
  9. Danielová V, Daniel M, Schwarzová L, Materna J, Rudenko N, Golovchenko M, Holubová J, Grubhoffer L, Kilián P. Integration of a tick-borne encephalitis virus and Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato into mountain ecosystems, following ashift in the altitudinal limit of distribution of their vector, Ixodes ricinus(Krkonose mountains, Czech Republic). Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2010Apr;10(3):223-30. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2009.0020.
  10. Jaenson TG, Lindgren E. The range of Ixodes ricinus and the risk of contracting Lyme borreliosis will increase northwards when the vegetation period becomes longer. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2011 Mar;2(1):44-9. doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2010.10.006. Epub 2010 Dec 13.
  11. ECDC (2012). The climatic suitability for Dengue transmission in continental Europe. European Centers for Disease Control, Stockholm, Sweden.
  12. Watkiss P, and Hunt A. (2012) Projection of economic impacts of climate change in sectors of Europe based on bottom up analysis: human health. Climatic Change 112(1), 101-126.

The below map is based on data from EM-DAT, an online database of disaster statistics maintained by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium.

Based on data from EM-DAT, an online database of disaster statistics maintained by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) in Belgium.