Human Health in an increasingly urbanized and warming world
A five-year Independent Research Fellowship funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) to investigate the impacts of climate and environmental change on health
1 October 2018
- Funding body: The Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC)
- Collaborators: UCL IEDE; Professor Lora Fleming (Exeter University); Dr Xiaoming Cai (Birmingham University); Professor Stefan Reis (UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)
- Total project value: £567,000
- Duration: 1st October 2018 (5 years)
Climate change affects human health directly, through changes in temperatures and increased frequency of extreme weather events, but also indirectly, through modifications to the environment which affect our exposure to things like air pollution and infectious diseases.
This fellowship focuses particularly on the urban environment, heatwaves, air pollution and the urban heat island. Cities are generally a few degrees warmer than rural areas, and this can have particular impacts during heatwaves, when overheating leads to increased risk of heat-related illness and even death. The urban heat island also interacts with local air pollution, particularly during hot weather.
Since climate models tend to be based on global simulations with coarse horizontal resolution, the impacts of cities on local weather can be difficult to determine. This project uses higher resolution (1 x 1 km), regional models, which can simulate meteorology at the regional or city scale, to calculate the impacts of the built environment on human health, for example, to estimate the number of heatwave deaths attributed to the urban heat island effect. Protecting public health against environmental hazards in future will mean the use of effective adaptation methods such as increased greening or introducing reflective building materials in cities. This project investigates the relative impacts of different city level adaptation strategies in terms of costs and benefits to human health, to provide evidence to aid effective climate change and health policy making.
- Research from this fellowship was included in a video interview for NERC’s healthy environments public engagement initiative for a project which seeks to listen and respond to diverse public views about the future of healthy environment research.
- Macintyre M, Heaviside C, Cai X, Phalkey R (2021) The winter urban heat island: impacts on cold-related mortality in a highly urbanized European region for present and future climate. Environment International. 154, p.106606.
- Macintyre M, Heaviside C, Cai X, Phalkey R (2021) Comparing temperature-related mortality impacts of cool roofs in winter and summer in a highly urbanized European region for present and future climate. Environment International. 154, p.106530.
- Arbuthnott K.A, Hajat S., Heaviside C., Vardoulakis S. (2020) Years of life lost and mortality due to heat and cold in the three largest English cities. Environment International. 144(2020) 105966
- Heaviside C (2020) Urban Heat Islands and their associated impacts on health. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science.
- Carnell E, Vieno M, Vardoulakis S, Beck R, Heaviside C, Tomlinson S, Dragosits U, Heal M, Reis S (2019). Modelling public health improvements as a result of air pollution control policies in the UK over four decades – 1970 to 2010. Environmental Research Letters. 14 074001
- Macintyre H and Heaviside C (2019). Potential benefits of cool roofs in reducing heat-related mortality during heatwaves in a European city. Environment International. 127, 430-441.
- Heaviside C (2019). Understanding the impacts of climate change on health to better manage adaptation action. Atmosphere 10(3), 119.
- Mitchell D, Heaviside C, Schaller N, Allen M, Ebi K, Fischer E, Gasparrini A, Harrington L, Kharin S, Shiogama H, Sillmann J, Sippel S, and Vardoulakis S (2018) Extreme heat-related mortality avoided under Paris Agreement goals, Nature Climate Change 8, 551–553 (2018)