Climate Change and Health

Climate change and the direct impacts of increasing global temperatures and water shortages are two of the biggest challenges facing the world. Our research is addressing the impact of these fundamental global changes.

Climate change affects not only our planet, but also how we can all live and work. The potentially deadly impacts of extreme heat on human health are already being felt in parts of the world.

Our research explores what climate change means to those working in increasingly hot temperatures. We are developing practical interventions to help ensure people can stay healthy in these changing environments.

Over the last 30 years, tens of thousands of individuals in Central America have died prematurely from chronic kidney disease of undetermined cause (CKDu) - a disease highly prevalent in sugarcane workers and linked to excessive heat exposure and dehydration suffered at work. Dr. Rebekah Lucas is a member of an international team of scientists who have studied a cohort of 700 workers at one of the largest sugarcane mills in Nicaragua, located in one of the regions most affected by CKDu. This study, the Adelante Initiative, is a scientific evaluation of workplace interventions that focus on adequate water and rest in shade together with improved ergonomics, aiming to prevent CKDu among workers while preserving productivity. 

Dr. Lucas is also a key team member on a different research project working with the US Army exploring the impact of high temperatures on the body’s ability to effectively use carbohydrates in food during prolonged and strenuous exercise.

Led by Dr. Gareth Wallis, Associate Professor in Exercise Metabolism, the three-year project sees researchers working with the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) to develop nutrition strategies to combat a drop in effective conversion of carbohydrates during the body’s exposure to extreme environments.

“We’re looking forward to tackling the research challenge that lies ahead, as the findings of our research could have implications for people in occupations that can require strenuous physical effort in hot conditions”

Dr Gareth Wallis

Dr Gareth Wallis

Associate Professor (Reader) in Exercise Metabolism and Nutrition

Discover more

  • La Isla Network

    La Isla Network is dedicated to ending the epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of undetermined causes (CKDnT) through a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach.

  • Exercise and health Research

    Investigating the mechanisms by which exercise aids health, and prevents and treats disease.

  • Sports performance Research

    Investigating how to support learners of all ages to engage in meaningful, high quality movement experiences and to improve their performance.


    USARIEM's mission is to optimize military personnel health and performance through medical research.

  • How can we protect the health of people working in extreme temperatures?

    Sports scientists are investigating how chronic exposure to extreme temperatures is affecting the health of workers worldwide.

Our Researchers

  • Media experts

    The University of Birmingham is one of the UK's leading universities for research and can offer expertise to the media on many different subjects.