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UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering

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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

Earth

1 October 2018

Key Facts

Overview

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.

Impact
  • 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.
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 Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash