Junior Research Groups "Global Change: Climate, Environment and Health"
For the first time, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will be funding junior research groups that are investigating the effects of climate change and other environmental changes on human health. To this end, the junior research groups will pursue an interdisciplinary approach and link research on the effects of climate change with health research.
By linking findings from different disciplines, the interdisciplinary research will lay the foundation for being better prepared for global crises such as climate change. In the new BMBF funding initiative "Junior Research Groups Global Change: Climate, Environment and Health", knowledge from the fields of climate change and the environment will be linked with health research. This will lead to a better understanding of the complex effects of climate change on humans. The innovative research ideas of young scientists will contribute to the development of concrete precautionary measures that protect human health. The funding initiative will also encourage cooperation with Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as these are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Knowledge-based prevention can save lives.
Health risks from climate change
Climate change has a considerable impact on people's health. Increasing extreme weather conditions, such as periods of heat or heavy rain, but also gradual changes, such as altered precipitation frequencies and increasing dry periods, are becoming a challenge for health. In particular, prolonged periods of heat, combined with intense UV radiation, and strong weather fluctuations put a strain on people's performance and increase the frequency and duration of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, skin cancer and allergies. In addition, global warming creates more favourable conditions for increased frequencies of infections as well as new infections and pathogens. Lastly, more frequent disaster events, such as storms and floods, can directly injure and traumatise people. These negative effects of climate change on health are also underlined by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The correlation between climate and health becomes particularly clear in regard to heat waves: in Germany, heat waves in 2003, 2006 and 2015 led to almost 20,000 additional deaths. Climate researchers even expect a further significant increase in heat waves in the coming decades.
Climate change increases the risks of pollution
Pollution and overexploitation of the environment have also been shown to lead to preventable deaths and illnesses worldwide due to contaminants in the air, in arable soils and in groundwater. Therefore, the World Health Organisation (WHO) describes climate change as the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century. The organisation points to the increasing direct and indirect damage to health exacerbated by air pollution such as particulate matter and contamination of water resources, among other factors. According to the United Nations (UN), sustainable development imperatively requires taking into account population health. In fact, at least nine of the seventeen UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim directly or indirectly at improving the general health of the population. Countermeasures can only be implemented in a targeted manner through greater knowledge and a better understanding.
The funding guideline was published in March 2021. The research projects will be funded for five years.