Impact of global warming on health

Global warming is an issue that is bound to gain momentum given the environmental situation. For some it is an invention, for others a joke, but the scientific community is unanimous in affirming that the question should not be taken lightly. Un réchauffement climatique de plus de 2 degrés peut avoir des conséquences irréversibles sur l’environnement et sur la santé des populations.

Read time: 4 minutes


The Direct Health Effects of Global Warming
Indirect Health Effects of Global Warming
Positive impacts of global warming?
Simple gestures can prevent certain risks linked to global warming
How can Meersens help you?

It is a fact that the most impacted populations are the poorest populations, which is why it is easier to deny the reality of global warming when you live in a developed country. But rest assured, the impact also affects people in developedcountries in a variety of ways.

The various points developed in this article will focus only on the impact of global warming on the health of populations, and will not mention the impacts of global warming on the environment and ecosystems, which is a subject in its own right.

The Direct Health Effects of Global Warming :

  • Undernourishment and malnutrition of the poorest populations:

The most deprived populations will not be able to fight against the rise in prices caused by poor harvests, they will be directly impacted.

  • Mortality linked to extreme events (heat waves…) :

During the 2003 heat wave, an excess mortality rate of more than 55% was recorded in France. The elderly have been very much affected. This heat wave also caused a 20% drop in harvests. Moreover, in cities, there are urban heat islands, which are localized temperature rises due to a configuration that favours the absorption, accumulation and then release of heat; areas with strong vegetation (parks, water, green spaces…) make it possible to avoid this phenomenon.

  • Infectious disease-related mortality and morbidity will increase in developing countries as well.

An increase in temperature will favour the expansion of insects, vectors of infection (mosquitoes, ticks…). The causes of this expansion are simple: milder winter temperatures increase the period of activity and reproduction of this type of insect. Thus there is arisk of spreading diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever or chikungunya, of which mosquitoes are vectors. In addition, drought conditions in the summer encourage the storage of water in cisterns, which is conducive to the proliferation of mosquitoes. In developed countries such as Australia, rats are a major problem as they move from places where food is scarce to cities and at the same time they are vectors of disease for both animals and humans.

Developing countries are also threatened by infections spread by water(cholera, whose global warming creates a favourable environment for the bacillus responsible for this infection…) and food.

The indirect health effects of global warming :

  • The random nature of bad weather (rainfall, drought, storms, floods, fires, etc.).

Droughts and changes in rainfall patterns (heavy but rarer rains) disrupt water resources. This meansless drinking water available in some areas or water of degraded quality. There is an increase in sediment and pollutant loading from heavy rains and an accumulation of pollutants during periods of drought. In addition, storms, fires or droughts… obviously have a negative impact on the yields of most crops. This on a global scale will lead to a climate of food insecurity, especially for people in the poorest countries.

  • Bad weather and rising waters

The rise in water levels is due to the melting of the ice and is likely to cause material damage (destruction of homes, infrastructure, etc.), leading to population movements in both developing and developed countries.

The melting of the ice also presents another problem, which is the emergence of pathogenic microorganisms hitherto preserved in the ice.

  • Could global warming affect the human microbiota*?

What is the relationship between the human microbiota and global warming? Specific studies have shown that in lizards (Zootoca vivipara) an increase in temperature of only 2 to 3°C leads to a decrease in the biodiversityof their microbiota with negative consequences on their survival. The impact on the human microbiota remains totally unexplored, this theory remains a hypothesis that needs to be investigated with further studies. On the other hand, it is already known that a modification of the human intestinal microbiota and the development of dysbiosis (imbalance of the microbiota with proliferation of microorganisms with pathological effects for the host) are linked to inflammatory diseases, obesity and other problems of a medical nature .

*a collection of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that the human body contains in large numbers.

  • The causes of global warming (anthropogenic greenhouse gases) have direct consequences on the health of populations.

Respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies can be aggravated by air pollution (ozone, SOx, NOx…). Rising temperatures also have a direct impact on allergies. Indeed, the pollen season extends over a longer period and plants such as ragweed, which is highly allergenic, proliferate all the more. The populations of developed countries and highly polluted countries (mainly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions) will be the main ones impacted.

Positive impacts of global warming?

In order to be totally objective, we must not forget to specify that indirectly global warming has some positive sides even if they are far from offsetting the negative effects.

Global warming is reducing cold-related mortality in some regions (e.g. in Europe).

According to a Public Health study, in France, between 2000 and 2010, 3.9% of total mortality in cities was attributable to cold and 1.2% to heat. A slight increase in temperature can have a beneficial effect on agriculture in specific regions that used to be cold (but overall the impact on agriculture remains negative).

Simple gestures can prevent certain risks linked to global warming : 


  • Concerning the risks related to heat : Stay hydratedand in places where the temperature is reasonable (indoors or in shady parks where the temperature is lower), make sure that children and the elderly are not left alone in places where the temperature is high.


  • Against ticks wear high socks and trousers if you go out in the forest (they come from the ground, especially tall grass…). Remove ticks with special tweezers and in case of doubt or the appearance of alveoli consult a doctor.


  • Mosquito nets can provide initial protection against mosquitoes. Vaccines exist against diseases carried by mosquitoes, but some are not currently licensed in Europe. Repellent products, intakes, essential oils … may be effective but in the long run are not good for health, so use in moderation especially for children.


  • Rats/mice present a direct risk in case of bites, but it is important to know that their droppings are also at risk, as well as the parasites they can carry. A clean interior (favouring sanitary products that respect your health: black soap, baking soda, vinegar…) allows you to protect yourself.

How can Meersens help you?

Analyze your environment and your food wherever you are!

The free Meersens mobile application allows you to monitor the risks in your environment and helps you to find simple solutions to reduce their impact on your health. Taking care of your health has never been easier. #HealthGuardian

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