Climate change 'greatest threat' to health Wales will face this century, says Public Health Wales

Health experts warn that changes to our climate like wetter weather in the winter, flooding, coastal erosion, and drier, hotter summers, will all have a "significant" impact on physical and mental health Credit: PA

Climate change is the "greatest threat to health and wellbeing Wales will face this century," a new report by Public Health Wales (PHW) finds.Whilst it says the whole population is set to be impacted by climate change in some way, PHW's assessment found that certain groups in Wales, such as young people, outdoor workers, the elderly and those living on a lower income, are more likely to be vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change.

It warns more extreme weather could increase heat-related illness, as well as mental health problems as a result of experiencing flooding and disruption to essential services.

The findings come as many parts of the world are experiencing extreme heat.

A sea surface temperature map, which shows that the North Atlantic has been subject to a severe marine heatwave since March. Credit: PA Images

More than a third of the population of the US are under extreme weather warnings, while Sanbao, China, has reached the country's highest ever provisional temperature with a sweltering 52°C.

Italy, Turkey and Greece have all been facing temperatures upwards of 40°C.

While temperatures may not be reaching the same heights back home, the Met Office confirmed that June 2023 was the hottest on record for the UK, which it says was down to "human induced climate change."

PHW warns changes to our climate like wetter weather in the winter, flooding, coastal erosion, and drier, hotter summers will have a significant impact on physical and mental health.

Liz Green, Programme Director for Health Impact Assessment in Public Health Wales, said, "Public participation in policy and planning for the future needs to be strengthened, and we need to build more support to help communities to prepare, respond and recover from flooding, coastal erosion, and other environmental impacts."

Communities like Borth have been identified as the most at risk of being affected by rising sea levels, according to Natural Resources Wales

The report has been welcomed by Wales' Minister for Health and Social Services.

Eluned Morgan said: “We know that climate change isn’t something that will happen in the future – it’s happening now and we can feel its effects in Wales today.

“This is an important piece of work by Public Health Wales. We can all take small steps to tackle the impact of climate change but ultimately, we need everyone – government, the public sector, businesses and the public - to work together to make Wales more resilient to the changing climate.

“I urge health and social care colleagues and the wider public sector to use this HIA to inform and enhance their approach to adaptation planning.”

PHW say they have made tackling the public health effects of climate change a "long-term strategic priority" and will be enhancing their work with partners to respond and take action to reduce the health impacts of climate change.

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