Friday, July 9, 2010

Climate change means more heatwaves, premature deaths, scientists warn

Environment News Service: Climate change is a serious health hazard that the United States must prepare for, according to government and university scientists from across the country. They advised Thursday that climate models show that global warming will increase air pollution and trigger more heat waves, floods and droughts, all of which will threaten human health.

"Climate change is a quintessential public health problem," said Michael McGeehin, director of the Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency of the federal government.

"Heat waves are a public health disaster. They kill, and they kill the most vulnerable members of our society," McGeehin warned. "The fact that climate change is going to increase the number and intensity of heat waves is something we need to prepare for." McGeehin was one of several scientists who briefed reporters on a teleconference held by the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.

Climate change models show that the kind of heat waves some parts of the country have been suffering through in recent weeks will occur more often and at closer intervals, and last longer, said David Easterling, a climatologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center. "

….Jonathan Patz, director of global environmental health at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said that while climate change is a health threat, tackling it is a major public health opportunity. He pointed out that the World Health Organization reports about one million people annually die prematurely from air pollution. He says that cutting global warming emissions also would reduce certain kinds of pollution, especially ground-level ozone. "If we can reduce air pollution," Patz said, "we can save lives."…

From 1921, in the New York Times: "Scene at one of the docks of the East River, New York, where those for whom the journey to the beaches is too long or too expensive forget the sweltering heat of August in the cool waters"

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