Human health impacts of climate change as a catalyst for public engagement: Combining medical, economic and behavioural insights

Jeroen van den Bergh, Cassandra Pillay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Purpose: This paper aims to clarify the relationship between climate change, its negative impacts on human health and its role in catalysing public engagement for climate policies. It aims to increase public support for climate-mitigation strategies by showing the medical case for negative climate-induced health impacts, the economic burden it entails and the public response to climate change that may be expected when health frames are used. Design/methodology/approach: The paper reviews medical, economic and behavioural studies focusing on climate-induced health impacts, its economic costs and its potential for catalysing public engagement for climate policy. Findings: The paper provides empirical insights about the various direct and indirect effects of climate change on human health which includes both physical impacts (infectious and non-infectious diseases) and non-physical impacts (mental disorders and reduced labour productivity). Extreme events such as storms, floods and droughts further seriously affect the health of many people, as they restrict food production and water supply. Economic damage costs of climate-induced health impacts are underestimated. Together, natural science, medical and economic studies warrant giving more attention to health in public debates on climate change. The more so as evidence of behavioural studies suggests that the use of health frames reinforces public concern for climate issues. Originality/value: This paper argues that climate-induced health impacts and their economic costs should be given more serious attention in discussions about climate-mitigation strategies. They can augment public support for climate policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)578-596
JournalInternational Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Behavioural response
  • Climate policy
  • Economic costs
  • Health impacts
  • Public preferences
  • Public support


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