BNA calls for urgent global action on climate change

14th Jun 2024

The British Neuroscience Association calls for urgent global action to save lives in the face of rising temperatures due to climate change.

We are one of a range of organisations from the health and science sector who are calling for immediate, coordinated action to reduce the projected rise in deaths and health issues due to increasing temperatures. A Roadmap for Global Heat Resilience was launched in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday 12 June, with the BNA one of the founding signatories. This consensus statement, coordinated by The Physiological Society, urges leaders across the world to adopt a human centred approach to tackling the health threat of climate change by coordinating efforts across sectors to improve preparedness to heat, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations.

The BNA has declared a climate emergency, recognising that this is the greatest health threat facing humanity. Globally, extreme temperature events are observed to be increasing in their frequency, duration, and magnitude. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heatwaves increased by around 125 million, and the ten most recent years are the warmest on Earth on record. As temperatures rise, so too do the number of preventable heat-related deaths.

“It is understood that pre-existing health issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and kidney disease, as well as a suite of rare diseases such as cystic fibrosis and neurological diseases make people more vulnerable to heat stress.”

“Further complicating the impact of heat on people with pre-existing conditions is that they are more likely to be taking certain medications that also put them at increased risk of being impacted by heat. Some antipsychotics, for example, affect thermoregulation (by reducing blood flow to the skin), increase heat production or impair sweating (such as diuretics, antihypertensives, antihistamines, beta blockers, stimulants and certain drugs for epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease)” (source: Heat stress in older individuals and patients with common chronic diseases,

Climate change, and its effects on weather patterns and adverse weather events, is likely to negatively affect the health of people with brain conditions, argue a UCL-led team of researchers. (source:

In the UK, we have seen record-breaking temperatures, with the Met Office issuing its first ‘red warning’ for extreme heat and the Government declaring a national emergency in 2022 when temperatures reached over 40°C. During that summer alone, there were an estimated 2,985 excess deaths associated with five heat episodes in England, the highest number in any given year. 

Elderly lady with sun parasolEveryone is at risk, particularly those with reduced ability to cope with extreme heat, such as people who are older, pregnant, or those living or working in high-exposure environments. The UK Government needs to act now to build long-term heat resilience plans focused on prevention and preparation to protect health and save lives nationally as well as supporting international action. The Roadmap to Global Heat Health sets out six priorities to mitigate the health impacts of rising temperatures and contribute towards a resilient and thriving future for all communities:

  1. Prevention and preparation: Focus on medium- and long-term strategies for the whole population, with a specific focus on vulnerable populations.
  2. Coordinated efforts: Align heat-related activities at all government levels with clear accountability.
  3. Societal engagement: Engage public, private, and voluntary sectors in resilience measures.
  4. Targeted Heat Action Plans: Use vulnerability assessments to focus efforts on those most at risk.
  5. Enhanced collaboration: Foster cooperation across countries, sectors, and scientific disciplines, incorporating transdisciplinary approaches.
  6. Future prosperity and sustainability: Promote sustainability and productivity for a brighter, prosperous and secure future.

Find out more and get involved > 
To find out how the BNA is taking action in response to the climate emergency, check out our Green Neuroscience page.

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