Climate Change and Heat Exposure: Impact on Health in Occupational and General Populations



The projected rise in the frequency and intensity of extreme heat conditions associated with global climate change represent the greatest threat to human health of the twenty-first century. This threat is particularly great for heat-vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those employed in physically demanding occupations. As such, there is an immediate need to define appropriate heat action plans to protect human health. To increase our readiness and ability to protect people during extreme heat events, it is essential that we continue to develop our understanding of the physiological factors that contribute to increased heat vulnerability. This includes the inter- and intraindividual factors that modify physiological strain during extreme heat exposure or during work and/or physical activity in the heat. In this review, emphasis will be directed to the consequences of rising global temperatures on human health, including the cause-and-effect relationships between the thermal environment and the body’s physiological capacity to dissipate heat. Further, we examine how physiological adaptations, behavioral adjustments, and the implementation of heat management and monitoring strategies can mediate one’s susceptibility to heat exposure and work in the heat. Finally, we review current initiatives directed at creating communities and industries resilient to climate change and protecting the general public and workers against the projected rise in temperatures.


Aging Chronic disease Climate change Health Heat Occupational health Thermoregulation Work 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human and Environmental Physiology Research UnitSchool of Human Kinetics, University of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.FAME Laboratory, Department of Exercise ScienceUniversity of Thessaly, KariesTrikalaGreece
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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