HEATCOST Health effects and associated socio-economic costs of increasing temperatures and wildfires – A global assessment

Organization: CICERO, Norway

Lead Researchers: Kristin Aunan

Year: 2020 - 2023

HEATCOST will quantify health risks attributable to heat and air pollution (with a particular focus on air pollution from wildfires) in main world regions under selected climate scenarios and socioeconomic pathways.

The project capitalizes on the H2020 project Exhaustion.eu.

The researtch is co-designed with stakeholder partners engaged in development and implementation of adaptation measures. HEATCOST will increase synergies between teams across partner countries and stakeholder organizations, fostering a new climate and environmental health knowledge platform based on a transdisciplinary and end-user focused approach.

HEATCOST quantifies global current and future changes in cardiopulmonary (CPD) mortality and morbidity due to extreme heat and air pollution (including from wildfires) under selected climate scenarios, while assessing a diverse set of adaptation mechanisms and strategies, and estimates the associated costs. Extreme heat increases the rates of death (mortality) and can exacerbate a range of diseases (morbidity). In particular, heat increases mortality and morbidity for cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (CVD and RD), which together constitute cardiopulmonary diseases (CPD). The risk of wildland fires increases during periods of extreme heat and decreasing precipitation, and can cause intense air pollution. Synergistic effects of extreme heat and air pollution (O3 and PM2.5) on CPD outcomes have been identified. Complex interactions act to exacerbate the effects of extreme events on CPD outcomes. The health risk varies by region, population vulnerability, the built environment and other factors. Populations at highest risk include older adults, children, socially isolated individuals, and individuals with chronic diseases. Health effects due to heat and air pollution is largely preventable to the extent that adaptation measures can be tailored to alleviate contextual and individual vulnerability factors for vulnerable populations.

To assess future health risks, HEATCOST will review the rich literature on the exposure-response relationships between health effects and non-optimum temperature, including for EU, USA, and China, and establish exposure projections for extreme heat and air pollution based on updated and advanced modelling and downscaling efforts. HEATCOST includes a diverse set of adaptation mechanisms, calculates the associated economic and social costs and identifies effective strategies for minimizing adverse impacts. The results will be disseminated to the general public and to decision- and policy-makers.

HEATCOST will address key knowledge gaps listed by the IPCC and USGCRP: published health risk projections do not adequately reflect the adaptation to a changing climate; there is a lack of knowledge and appropriate models regarding possible interactive effects of extreme heat and air pollution; and the fundamental gap between the approach of global models and observational data for quantitative projections of the costs associated with heat, air pollution and health risks.