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Irrespective of any actions that may soon be taken to reduce or halt climate change, human populations will be exposed to some degree of climate change over the coming decades. There is therefore a need to consider how to enhance the adaptation possibilities of communities to climate-related impacts on human health.

The project is co-ordinated by WHO/ECEH, contact person Bettina Menne, and is organised in 11 work packages. Starting from the consideration that human populations are probably to be exposed to some degree of climate change over the coming decades, the project aims to enhance the adaptation possibilities of communities to climate-related impacts on human health.

In order to reach this aim, a conceptual framework, vulnerability assessments, policy and economic analysis, and Integrated Assessment models are used to identify and evaluate adaptation possibilities for human health with regard to thermal stresses, extreme weather events, vector-borne diseases and food and waterborne diseases.

The role of FEEM is to give a strategic contribution to the whole project trying to underline the most cost-effective adaptation strategies.

Main outputs of the project are: a) best Practice Guide on how to successful adapt; b) guidelines for Policy Makers on cost effective policy instruments and measures for adaptation; c) tool for environmental health management (TEHAM); d) targeted guidelines on improved adaptive strategies to vector borne diseases in vulnerable regions and reactive, anticipatory technologies and measures to adapt to thermal stresses in Europe, how to cope with extreme weather events, improved adaptive strategies to water and food borne diseases and conceptual framework for adaptation assessment of Europe’s health.

Briefly, we find that the public health professionals and emergency response officials we survey deem resources, the inequality in the distribution of resources, the type of health care system, and the level of access to information important determinants of adaptive capacity. Having a health care system based on universal coverage, for example, is judged to be equivalent to a growth in per capita GNP of $12,000, while high access to information is deemed equivalent to $14,000 worth of per capita income. Likewise, the answers to our conjoint choice questions provided by our respondents imply that a country with a highly unequal distribution of income would require 4,600 more dollars in per capita income to have a degree of adaptive capacity equivalent to that of a country with a more equalitarian distribution of income. Caution should be used to interpret these results, because we cannot claim that our sample is necessarily representative of the population of public officials and experts.

The second objective of the cCASHh project was to arrive at credible Value of a Statistical Life figures that can be used in estimating the mortality benefits of adaptation policies in the context of heat waves and extreme events in Italy and in the Czech Republic. We began this task with a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical economic literature. We arrived at the conclusion that suitable VSL values do not exist for either Italy or the Czech Republic.

We thus concluded that original valuation studies were needed for both countries, and that the appropriate format for these studies should be contingent valuation. We therefore created two contingent valuation survey questionnaires that elicit willingness to pay for reductions in the risk of dying for cardiovascular and respiratory causes (the typical causes of excess deaths during heat waves) and the administration of the questionnaire (self-administration by the respondent using the computer) to samples of Italian and Czech residents in late May-early June, and September 2004, respectively. We find that respondents understood the good being valued (a risk reduction in the risk of dying for a specific set of causes) and the valuation exercise, and that their responses to the payment questions are broadly consistent with economic theory.

Regarding the VSL to use when examining adaptation policies that would reduce the mortality impacts of extreme (weather) events, we have developed and pre-tested a contingent valuation questionnaire. The questionnaire is currently being programmed into software for self-administration by respondents. We plan to conduct a pilot study based on this instrument at no extra cost to the project.

Human-induced changes in the global climate system pose a range of health risks. Irrespective of any actions, which may soon be taken to reduce or halt these environmental changes, human populations will be exposed to some degree of climate change over the coming decades.

The key objectives of this research are:

  • to identify the vulnerability to adverse impacts of climate change on human health;
  • to review current measures, technologies, policies and barriers to improve the adaptive capacity of human populations to climate change;
  • to identify for European populations the most appropriate measures, technologies and policies, as well as the most effective approaches to implementation, in order to succesfully adapt to climate change;
  • to provide an assessment of the costs (due to the implementation of adaptive measures) and benefits (in terms of improved health) of adaptation options for human health.

In order to reach these objectives, a conceptual framework, a vulnerability assessment, policy and economic analysis and scenarios will be applied to thermal stresses, extreme weather events, vector borne diseases and water- and food-borne diseases. In particular, the vulnerability assessment focuses on:

  • identification of current vulnerable geographic areas and populations;
  • identification of environmental climatic stresses which might exacerbate or ameliorate existing problems;
  • priority research and information needs that can better prepare policy makers to reach wise decisions.

The policy analysis will identify current existing environmental health policies at international, European and national level, frameworks and implementations, implementation barriers, and will analyse win-win policies.

The economic analysis focuses on the social economic costs of adaptation and on cost effective adaptation measures to be enhanced by policy makers.

In particular, FEEM provides with:

  • an assessment of the costs and benefits of adaptation options for human health, based on traditional cost-benefit analysis techniques applied to planned adaptation;
  • a quantitative analysis of the behavioural responses of individuals to adaptation for health, based upon ad hoc surveys results;
  • a data base with socio-economic, demographic and other relevant indicators for the implementation of adaptation policies;
  • guidelines for policy makers on cost effective policy instruments and measures for adaptation to human health.