Climate change and health

The main cause of global warming is humans putting too much carbon in the atmosphere. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil increases the concentration of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and its presence in the atmosphere contributes to global heating.

Climate change in Ireland is in line with global trends.

The effects of climate change in Ireland are likely to become more harmful.

These could include:

  • sea level rise
  • more intense storms and rainfall
  • more frequent and extreme river and coastal flooding
  • water shortages in summer
  • increased risk of new pests and diseases
  • adverse impacts on water quality

Climate change and health

Health risks from climate change vary depending on where you live.

In Ireland, the main changes related to human health are likely to be:

Increases in heat-wave related health impacts

This includes melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. It also includes damage to eyes, asthma attacks and COPD.

Increases in flood and storm-related health impacts

This includes disruption to essential healthcare and emergency services. It also includes increased deaths, injuries, hypothermia, infectious diseases.

Changes in patterns of food-borne disease

This includes more parasites and enteric viruses in food. It can also include rotavirus infections.

Increase in the burden of waterborne disease

This includes more infections through water-borne organisms and pathogens such as cholera.

Increase in the frequency of respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases result in more premature deaths. This is because of high levels of ozone exposure. There may be an increase in deaths because of toxic air pollution from wildfires. An increased number of infections associated with aeroallergens may occur.

Living in a more sustainable way and using resources wisely can help to protect us from these issues.

Climate Action Plan

The Government's Climate Action Plan sets out objectives to reduce Ireland's carbon emissions.

The Plan outlines the leadership role public bodies can play in:

  • taking early action on climate
  • achieving our decarbonisation goals
  • using best practice in taking climate action

HSE Infrastructure Decarbonisation Roadmap

In October 2022 the HSE published its Infrastructure Decarbonisation Roadmap (PDF, size 4.6 MB, 43 pages). This Roadmap outlines our approach to achieving the targets set out in the Government's Climate Action Plan.

The targets for the Public Sector are:

  • a 51% absolute reduction in energy related Green House Gas emissions
  • a 50% energy efficiency improvement by 2030
  • to achieve net zero no later than 2050

The Roadmap outlines the work undertaken by the HSE to date and our approach to continuing to reduce carbon emissions from our buildings and their operation.

Climate Adaption Plan

Without effective mitigation and adaptation action, climate change will have profound implications for:

  • the health and well being of Ireland’s population
  • the smooth delivery of our health and social care services
  • critical infrastructure

A five-year plan for climate change adaptation is currently being developed.