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

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.

Sustainability Strategy for Health

The sustainability strategy for health aims to achieve a more sustainable health system. The National Health Sustainability Office has a key role in delivering the strategy.

Sustainability Strategy for Health 2017 – 2019 (PDF, 2.91MB, 25 pages)

Strategy mission

We aim to be a leading sustainable organisation by:

  • delivering low carbon quality sustainable healthcare
  • preserving natural resources
  • reducing carbon emissions
  • lessening the effects of climate change
  • safeguarding high quality patient care
  • ensuring compliance with legislation and national energy, waste and water efficiency targets
  • developing systems to support a sustainable health service
  • ensuring the development of sustainable facilities and buildings in both design and operation
  • promoting sustainability in the procurement process
  • minimising the environmental impact of staff, patient and visitor travel
  • developing and building staff, patient and public awareness of sustainability issues
  • integrating sustainability priorities into policies, planning, budgeting and reporting processes