The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly visible. RIVM analysed the health effects of climate change for the period 1991–2020. RIVM also investigated the impact of these effects and their likelihood. In doing so, RIVM looked at heat, air quality, mental health, UV radiation, allergies (hay fever) and infectious diseases. The study is part of an overview report by the PBL Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency, which describes the influence of climate change on various sectors. This overview shows that health effects score high on impact and probability when compared to the other sectors. The effects of climate change are not isolated and can reinforce one another. RIVM considers it important to obtain more knowledge on this, so the Netherlands can better prepare itself for extreme weather conditions that will cause simultaneous effects in the sectors studied.  

Climate change is a worldwide phenomenon, which means it is also affecting the Netherlands. Over the past century, the average temperature has increased. Furthermore, we are experiencing more precipitation, more droughts and more days with average temperatures in excess of 25 degrees Celsius. Already, the consequences are considerable. In the context of the National Climate Adaptation Strategy (NAS), the Netherlands Environment Assessment Agency (PBL) is looking into the effects of climate change together with other knowledge institutes. RIVM is mapping out the health effects. This new analysis will offer a basis for policy and prioritising the most urgent risks. RIVM recommends researching how the effects of climate change may reinforce one another, leading to societal disruption.  

Strongest evidence for effects of heat  

The impact on humans of heat, air quality, mental health, UV radiation and hay fever are estimated to be high. This means many people will be affected or even die. The most supported effect of climate change on health is the number of additional deaths due to higher average yearly temperatures: 250 deaths per year on average. Because of climate change, we are experiencing more days with high temperatures (above 20 degrees), as well as more heat waves, which are also hotter and last longer. This is causing more deaths.

Relation between the impact of these effects  

PBL is publishing an overarching report that sets out the impact and probability of the effects of climate change. In addition to health effects, it also looks at the effects on water, agriculture and nature, among others. This overview shows that the health effects studied by RIVM score high on impact and probability compared to other sectors.   

Urgent need for more research into the relations between effects and how they accumulate  

The overview of impact and probability is an important step in studying the effects of climate change. More knowledge is needed on how effects accumulate. Accumulation occurs, under conditions that combine health effects of heat, air quality and hay fever, for example. Effects from different sectors can influence one another as well. For example, wildfires can affect not only the quality of nature but also the health and safety of humans. 

This study looks back over the past 30 years. A follow-up study will look at possible future health effects of climate change.