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Link between climate change and pollution: health implications

Source: EEA

Key messages

  • Climate change and pollution often have joint sources and exert combined and mutually reinforcing pressures on the European environment and human health.

  • The most evident joint impacts of pollution and climate change on human health in the EU are connected to citizens’ exposure to heat and air pollution. Short-lived climate forcers that are also air pollutants, such as fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone, constitute the largest environmental health risk in Europe. In addition, joint exposure to particulate matter intensifies the impact of heat on mortality.

  • In the future, climate change may increase exposure to harmful chemicals, either directly – for example as a result of increased flooding and bioaccumulation of toxic pollutants in the food web – or as a driver of increased use of agrochemicals in the food system.

  • Many win-win solutions are possible to reduce pollution while simultaneously adapting to (and mitigating) climate change. These include for example natural cooling improvements in buildings and various nature-based solutions. On the other hand, measures to address either pollution or climate change impacts may also have potential trade-offs.

See the cross-cutting story on co-benefits of addressing climate change and pollution here.

The story is part of the Health section of EEA's zero pollution monitoring assessment.