Find out how climate change, known as global warming or the greenhouse effect, may affect human health now and in the future.

We can already see the impacts of climate change and these will become more severe as global temperatures rise. How great the impacts will become depends upon our success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Potential health risks of climate change

Climate change can cause species such as mosquitos and ticks to migrate, and this is one of the reasons that diseases that affect humans start infecting new areas of the world.

Global warming can also cause air pollution, with rising temperatures causing an increase in low level ozone or smog as well as pollen. This particularly causes problems for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those with asthma or cardiovascular disease.

Crop failures may lead to rising prices or possible food shortages, and conflict over water, land, and food may lead to mass migration of displaced people.

The direct consequences of climate change for UK health may include:

  • an increase in deaths from floods, storms and heat exposure;
  • more cases of food poisoning as the instances of food-borne infections rise with warmer temperatures;
  • a greater number of respiratory problems from the damage to surface ozone during the summer as well as mould growth in homes;
  • an increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts from higher levels of UV;
  • an increase in cases of insect-borne diseases from an increase in numbers of flies and fleas;
  • an increase in psychological stress; and
  • an increase in poverty and malnutrition as food prices soar due to failure of crops and the negative impact on ecosystems globally.

To read more about the health effects of climate change in the UK see the health effects of climate change in the UK 2012 report.

Frequently asked questions

To find out if you are at risk from river, coastal or groundwater flooding now or in the next few days see the GOV.UK flood information service page.

You can also find out what we are doing to reduce the risk of flooding, read flood investigation reports, find out how communities can help, and learn about sustainable drainage systems on our flood and water management page.

You can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by composting household waste. You can find out more about composting and purchase a compost bin here.

To complete a home energy check to find out how to reduce energy bills and therefore carbon emissions, see the Home Energy Check website.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) works to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies, and promotes international action to help reduce the effects of climate change. You can find out more on the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy page at GOV.UK.

You can find out about what we are doing in North Yorkshire to reduce carbon emissions here.