Many factors that contribute to our health and well-being as New Zealanders are threatened by climate change. These include direct effects such as increased exposure to heat waves and weather events but also indirect effects, such as reduced water safety or challenges to our mental health.
This evidence summary describes the human health impacts of climate change for New Zealand and how the building blocks of our health will be disrupted.
Climate change is affecting New Zealand and the health of New Zealanders as many factors that contribute to our health and well-being are threatened by climate change. Over time, increasing climate change will lead to our health being impacted more severely, and more of us will be affected.
Direct effects from climate change include increased exposure to heat waves and weather events, flooding and fires. Indirect environmental effects from climate change include increased exposure to microbial contamination, pollen, particulate air pollutants and carriers of new diseases.
Indirect social effects from climate change include disruption to health services, social and economic factors including migration, housing and livelihood stresses, food security, socioeconomic deprivation and health inequality.
The consequences of climate change are also expected to have adverse mental health and community health effects.
The effects of climate change will not be spread evenly across the population, exacerbating existing socioeconomic and ethnic health inequalities.
Well-designed policies to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions will not only limit climate change and reduce the associated risks to human health, but have the potential to improve population health and reduce health inequalities.
More research is needed to better quantify the health impacts of climate change for New Zealand in the short, medium and long term, particularly where impacts are indirect.