Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

National Assessment of Human Health Effects of Climate Change in Portugal: Approach and Key Findings

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

National Assessment of Human Health Effects of Climate Change in Portugal: Approach and Key Findings

Article excerpt

In this study we investigated the potential impact of climate change in Portugal on heat-related mortality, air pollution--related health effects, and selected vectorborne diseases. The assessment used climate scenarios from two regional climate models for a range of future time periods. The annual heat-related death rates in Lisbon may increase from between 5.4 and 6 per 100,000 in 1980-1998 to between 8.5 and 12.1 by the 2020s and to a maximum of 29.5 by the 2050s, if no adaptations occur. The projected warmer and more variable weather may result in better dispersion of nitrogen dioxide levels in winter, whereas the higher temperatures may reduce air quality during the warmer months by increasing tropospheric ozone levels. We estimated the future risk of zoonoses using ecologic scenarios to describe future changes in vectors and parasites. Malaria and schistosomiasis, which are currently not endemic in Portugal, are more sensitive to the introduction of infected vectors than to temperature changes. Higher temperatures may increase the transmission risk of zoonoses that are currently endemic to Portugal, such as leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, and Mediterranean spotted fever. Key words: climate change, disease, health impact assessment, Portugal. Environ Health Perspect 114:1950-1956 (2006). doi:10.1289/ehp.8431 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 11 July 2006]

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In this article we describe the Climate Change in Portugal: Scenarios, Impacts and Adaptation Measures (SIAM) project. The first phase of the project was conducted to assess climate change impacts and adaptation measures in continental Portugal (Santos et al. 2002). The SIAM project was divided functionally into 10 groups and an integration team. Seven groups worked on climate change impacts and adaptation measures for specific sectors (impact groups): water resources, coastal zones, agriculture, human health, energy, forests and biodiversity, and fisheries. The remaining groups worked on climate and climate scenarios, socioeconomic scenarios, and a sociologic analysis of climate change issues in Portugal. To facilitate integration across sectors, groups used the same suite of climate data (observed and scenarios) and socioeconomic scenarios.

The results were communicated in Portuguese and in English to the public, decision makers, and other scientists. Throughout the assessment process there were many consultations/interviews with experts (international and national), other stakeholders, and with the other SIAM project groups to discuss cross-sector issues.

In this article we describe the SIAM health impact assessment, focusing on the methods used and the main quantitative results for heat-related mortality, air pollution--related health effects, and vectorborne diseases. Detailed information including suggested adaptation measures for all health impacts assessed is available in the SIAM health technical report (Casimiro and Calheiros 2002).

Health Impact Assessment Methods

Climate-sensitive health outcomes included in the assessment were identified for Portugal on the basis of previous national and international assessments (McMichael and Githeko 2001). Potential health outcomes identified were heat-related mortality, air pollution--related health effects, vector-and rodentborne diseases, water- and foodborne diseases, and health effects associated with floods and drought. Table 1 lists health outcomes further described in this article. During the assessment of each health outcome, the following questions were addressed: a) What is the current (or historical) burden of the health outcome in Portugal? b) What is the climate--health relationship for this health outcome? c) Assuming the climate--health relationship to be valid for all exposure scenarios, what climate change health impacts are anticipated for Portugal?

The current burden of climate-sensitive diseases was obtained from national monitoring and control programs as well as from the literature. …

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