BSC responds to the urgent need to build resilience to climate-related health threats

04 December 2023
The urgency of facing climate-related health impacts highlights the need to work towards mitigating, adapting and creating resilience to the threat posed by climate change

The BSC's Global Health Resilience group responds by creating solutions to improve surveillance, preparedness and response to the emergence of climate-sensitive diseases

Climate change is not a far-in-the-future theoretical scenario; it is here, it kills, and it is getting worse. For years, scientists have emphasised the increasing frequency and scale of climate-related health impacts and the harmful air pollution caused by many climate change drivers. Without accelerated mitigation and adaptation, ongoing climate change will have irreversible impacts on human health. 

Responding to the threat of climate change to human health is the Global Health Resilience (GHR) group at the Earth Sciences Department of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS). Led by ICREA Professor Rachel Lowe, GHR is a transdisciplinary team of researchers working at the interface of epidemiology, climate change, planetary health, biology, mathematical modelling, and data science to understand links between environmental change and human health - with a particular focus on infectious diseases. 

The group’s mission is to co-create policy-relevant methodological solutions to enhance surveillance, preparedness and response to climate-sensitive disease outbreaks and emergence. Data, modelling and decision-support tools are co-developed alongside climate scientists, social scientists, science communication experts and software engineers at the BSC, as well as leading international researchers and public health, disaster risk management, environment and humanitarian agencies in Latin America & the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and Europe. The GHR group also hosts the Lancet Countdown in Europe, an international collaboration tracking the health impacts of climate change and the health co-benefits of climate action across 33 European indicators.  

The GHR group has recently published three articles highlighting the need for immediate action to address climate change-related health threats—such as geographical range expansion and outbreaks of climate-sensitive infectious diseases—and their uneven impacts across societal groups within and beyond Europe.

In a recent Comment published in The Lancet Regional Health-Europe journal,  BSC researcher and GHR member Kim van Daalen and co-authors discuss climate-related health inequities within and beyond Europe, highlighting that climate change is inherently a social and health justice problem. Climate-related health impacts are not experienced equally, nor is the responsibility for climate change. The authors emphasise Europe’s historical and ongoing responsibility for the climate crisis and its associated health impacts and how, within Europe, differential exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity result in uneven distributions of climate-related health impacts—often reflecting socio-demographic inequities and marginalisation. They conclude that climate change symptoms cannot be treated without addressing the underlying inequities between and within countries.

In another Comment published in The Lancet Planetary Health, BSC researcher and GHR member Daniela Lührsen and co-authors examine temperature anomalies in Attica (Greece) between 1993 and 2022 to understand whether winter temperatures may have played a role in the unusually high number of Aedes albopictus mosquitoes captured in December 2022. Aedes albopictus, commonly referred to as the Asian tiger mosquito, is an invasive mosquito species established (evidence of reproduction and overwintering) in 13 European countries, with particular prominence in Southern Europe. The mosquito’s potential as a vector for over 20  arboviruses (such as dengue, chikungunya, and Zika), combined with its expanding presence in various European countries, has recently raised substantial public health concerns. In the comment, the authors report an upward trend in December temperatures over the last 30 years, with December 2022 being the warmest December recorded to date in Attica.  With climate change leading to warmer winters, adult vector mosquito activity may become the norm. These findings highlight the need for continued surveillance to monitor the mosquito as it adapts to warmer temperatures.

Lastly, in a Health Policy article published in The Lancet Regional Health-Europe, GHR members, as part of IDAlerta consortium of transdisciplinary researchers and practitionerspropose a framework for the co-production of policy-relevant indicators and decision-support tools that track past, present, and future climate-induced infectious disease risks across hazard, exposure, and vulnerability domains at the animal, human, and environmental interface. The proposed work entails the co-development of early warning and response systems and tools to assess the costs and co-benefits of climate change adaptation and mitigation measures across sectors to increase health system resilience at regional and local levels. The ultimate aspiration is to bridge the gap between knowledge and action, delivering an unparalleled integrated One Health—Climate Risk framework (see the figure below) that will empower policymakers, healthcare professionals, and communities to mitigate risks and bolster resilience.

Figure 1. Integrated One Health - Climate Risk approach. Illustration of the integration of One Health (i.e., an integrated, unifying approach to animal, human and environmental health) in the IPCC’s framework of risk in terms of hazard (i.e., the occurrence of a climate-related event), exposure (i.e., presence of people, livelihoods, species, ecosystems, resources and infrastructure that can be adversely affected by the hazard), and vulnerability (i.e., propensity to be adversely affected) to climate change.


  1. van Daalen, K., Tonne, C., Borrell, C., Nilsson, M., & Lowe, R. (2023). Approaching unsafe limits: climate-related health inequities within and beyond Europe. The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, Volume 31, 100683.

  2. Lührsen, D.S., Zavitsanou, E., Cerecedo-Iglesias, C. et al. (2023). Adult Aedes albopictus in winter: implications for mosquito surveillance in Southern Europe. The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 7, Issue 9, Pages e729-e731.

  3. Rocklöv, J., Semenza, J.C., Dasgupta, S., et al. (2023). Co-producing integrated decision-support tools to build climate resilience to emerging infectious diseases in Europe and beyond. The Lancet Regional Health - Europe, Volume 32, 100701.