Health risks of warming of 1.5 °c, 2 °c, and higher, above pre-industrial temperatures

Kristie L. Ebi, Tomoko Hasegawa, Katie Hayes, Andrew Monaghan, Shlomit Paz, Peter Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background : In response to the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the research community was asked to estimate differences in sectoral-specific risks at 1.5 °C and 2 °C increases in global mean surface air temperature (SAT) above pre-industrial temperatures. Projections of the health risks of climate change typically focus on time periods and not on the magnitude of temperature change. Objective : Summarize projections of health risks associated with temperature extremes and occupational heat stress, air quality, undernutrition, and vector-borne diseases to estimate how these risks would differ at increases in warming of 1.5 °C, 2 °C, and higher. Methods : A comprehensive search strategy included English language publications since 2008 projecting health risks of climate change identified through established databases. Of 109 relevant publications, nearly all were for future time periods (e.g. in 2030 and 2050) rather than future SAT thresholds. Time periods were therefore converted to temperature changes based on the models and scenarios used. Results : Warming of 1.5 °C is reached in about the 2030s for all multi-model means under all scenarios and warming of 2 °C is reached in about the 2050s under most scenarios. Of the 40 studies projecting risks at 1.5 and 2 °C increases of SAT, risks were higher at 2 °C for adverse health consequences associated with exposures to high ambient temperatures, ground-level ozone, and undernutrition, with regional variations. Risks for vector-borne diseases could increase or decrease with higher global mean temperatures, depending on regional climate responses and disease ecology. Conclusions : The burden of many climate-sensitive health risks are projected to be greater at an increase of 2 °C SAT above pre-industrial temperatures than at 1.5 °C. Future projection studies should report results based on changes in global and regional mean SATs and time, to facilitate quantitative analyses of health risks and to inform the level of ambition and timing of adaptation interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number063007
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Part of this research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNX16AO98G). The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • climate change
  • dengue
  • malaria
  • occupational health
  • ozone
  • temperature-related mortality
  • undernutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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