Without further action on climate change, more people in Europe are likely to become ill or die from climate-related health effects. Unprecedented heatwaves, like those seen this year, pose the biggest direct climate-related health threat to Europeans, the EU environment agency EEA said in a report. Even today, such heat waves have caused numerous cases of death and illness.

Those numbers would increase without further action to adapt to and mitigate climate change, the EEA warned. Among other things, the most vulnerable groups can be better protected with action plans, the creation of green and shady places in cities, better building design and adapted working hours. It is time to move from planning to action.

The Copenhagen-based EU agency looked at the extent to which climate change poses a threat to health and well-being in Europe for the new report. She focused on the effects of high temperatures and the climate-related spread of infectious diseases. Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are therefore expected to spread further north as climate change increases, causing a higher burden of disease.

It was only on Monday that the European office of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that, according to data reported so far, at least 15,000 people in the region have died explicitly from the heat this year, including around 4,500 in Germany. In general, there was an escalation of heat waves, droughts and forest fires in Europe this summer, explained WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge – all of this had health effects on the population.