Health is affected by climate change

Clouds over a single tree in a green field of grass.Climate change refers to the change in the earth’s global and regional climate over time. Healthy people depend on having a healthy climate. The expected health impacts and implications of climate change – including those for New Zealand – have been described by a number of authoritative sources such as the World Health Organisation and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

Some of the health impacts of expected climate changes include:

  • an increase in heat-related deaths and reduced cold-related deaths to due to changes in weather patterns;
  • more storms and flooding, affecting the health and wellbeing of communities;
  • increased risk of vector-borne diseases (such as malaria or dengue fever from mosquitos), and food- and water-borne diseases due to ecosystem changes;
  • changes in food production patterns and food security for both locally produced and imported feed, due to greater fluctuation in crop yields and a decrease in productive land;
  • changes in water quality especially in rural areas leading to water allocation issues;
  • flow-on social and economic impacts, contributing to increased mental health effects; and
  • widening of health and social inequalities as the disadvantaged will be disproportionately impacted.

These substantial health impacts are likely and will be widespread, even though the details on the extent of these impacts are uncertain.

Our Pacific neighbours are already feeling the effects of climate changes. These countries are particularly vulnerable to the expected increases in frequency and severity of storms, as well as the sea level rise due to limited economic capacity and insecure infrastructure. New Zealand can expect migration pressure in the future from “climate refugees” from the Pacific.

Adapted from: Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) submission to the NZ Climate Change Target Discussion Document 2015.

How we can combat climate change

The serious impacts of climate change on health means that efforts need to be made to address greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a low carbon future through supportive policies and programmes.

Community and Public Health supports local efforts to combat climate change by encouraging local policies to include the following:

  • greater use of public transport;
  • reducing overall vehicle use, and improving engine efficiency;
  • reducing the amount of energy we use; and
  • properly insulated houses.

Residents input needed for climate change strategy

Waimate District Council media release: 22nd November 2023

The Waimate District Council is asking its residents to help create a district-wide climate change strategy.

As the first step in the public engagement process for the strategy, a survey has been issued to gauge the sentiment around climate change in the district, allowing for a fit-for-purpose strategy to be developed.

It was important to have public input and an understanding of how the public viewed the issue, Climate Change Officer Andrew Oliver said.

“We want to create a strategy which works for us locally. It’s for the people by the people,” Andrew said.

Once the survey is collated, the next step is for a public presentation in March 2024, followed by a series of public workshops.

The strategy will cover the four wellbeings (environmental, economic, social and cultural) as defined under the Local Government (Community Well-being) Amendment Act 2019.

The consultation closes on Thursday 14th December 2023.


National documents

Christchurch | Ōtautahi documents

Canterbury | Waitaha documents

West Coast | Te Tai o Poutini documents


Contact your local office for further information:

Ph: +64 3 364 1777

Ph: +64 3 687 2600

Ph: +64 3 768 1160

For more information on climate change including emissions trading, contact:

Ministry for the Environment
0800 CLIMATE (0800 254 628)

Climate Change and Health in Waitaha Canterbury

The Policy and Information Teams at Te Mana Ora | Community and Public Health collaborated to produce this report to increase understanding of the interactions between people, the environment, and the climate in Waitaha Canterbury.

It is designed to provide planners and decision-makers and the wider community with information that can shape the development of effective responses to climate change.

This report describes a broad range of determinants of health and the wellbeing impacts of climate change across Waitaha Canterbury.

The impacts of climate change in Waitaha | Canterbury

We’re learning more all the time about how climate change will affect us.

Waitaha | Canterbury is expected to be hit with more severe rainfall events, more floods, and stronger and more frequent extreme winds.

As temperatures increase, so too does the atmosphere’s capacity to carry more moisture. This can result in more severe rainfall events, which is likely to result in more floods.

Extreme winds are also expected to increase over the next century. Waitaha | Canterbury already often experiences strong winds, but these may become stronger and more frequent.

Also the temperature differences between the land and the sea will become more pronounced in summer, which can cause more of the strong north-easterly airflows we are already so accustomed to.

Although we are expecting increases in extreme wind and rain in our region over the next century, these projections are significantly lower than for other parts of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Page last updated: 27/11/2023

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