In the Netherlands and worldwide, the climate is changing. Over the past century, the average temperature has risen, the amount and intensity of precipitation have increased and extremely hot weather has become more frequent. Climate change affects many areas, such as agriculture, the spread of pathogens, the supply of drinking water and flood protection. Moreover, climate change has been called one of the greatest health threats of the 21st century. The health effects of climate change, such as heat stress, more allergic symptoms and the spread of water and vector-related diseases can have both social and economic impacts. 

RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment studies the effects of climate change on public health, infectious diseases and the environment. For example, we investigate the health effects of climate change in relation to UV radiation. RIVM manages the one UV radiation measurement point in the Netherlands and we model skin cancer risks in relation to UV exposure. During heat waves we activate the National Heat Plan to ensure that measures are taken to protect in particular vulnerable groups from the effects of heat. RIVM also investigates the effects of climate change on the quality of air, soil and drinking water sources. In this way we safeguard a sustainable climate-resilient and healthy living environment.  Furthermore, RIVM coordinates the Netherlands Pollutant Release & Transfer Register that collects and disseminates the emissions of all greenhouse gases in the Netherlands.  RIVM has also been instrumental in the creation of the 2016 amendment of the Montreal Protocol to reduce the use of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) super pollutants, strong greenhouse gases that are used in large quantities in refrigeration and air conditioning.

International context

RIVM’s WHO Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water develops and implements climate-resilient water safety plans. We participate in the Working Group on Health in Climate Change (HIP) of the European Environment and Health Task Force (EHTF). We are also involved in Horizon2020 projects such as BlueHealth which aims to quantify the impacts on health and well-being of existing and novel interventions connected to urban blue infrastructure.

Knowledge agenda climate and health

Commissioned by ZonMw, the Dutch organisation for health research and care innovation, Maastricht University, Wageningen University & Research and RIVM have drawn up a knowledge agenda on climate and health. The knowledge agenda was based on a study of the health effects of climate change, climate adaptation measures and climate mitigation measures. The health topics include allergies, food, vector and water-related diseases, and the positive and negative health effects of adaptation measures, such as more green and blue spaces.

The knowledge agenda describes which research needs to be carried out to limit the health risks of climate change. A coherent knowledge agenda with a broad focus is important to gain insight into the health risks of climate change in the Netherlands, in the short and long term. The climate and health knowledge agenda calls for an integrated approach to climate research, through cooperation between various policy sectors and practice. Future climate research should also help to prioritise measures.

SDG 13 Climate action

See also SDGSustainable Development Goal 13 Climate Action