Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Climate change may add to disaster deaths

Alister Doyle in Reuters: Natural disasters are tending to kill fewer people but climate change may add to the toll by unleashing more extreme weather and causing after-effects such as disease and malnutrition, experts say. Better warnings of cyclones or heat waves and an easing of poverty in developing nations in the past few decades have made many nations better prepared for weather extremes, helping to curb death tolls.

"In terms of actually saving lives we are doing well," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a senior expert at the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO). "But that's no guarantee for the future as we see the hazard increasing, particularly things like heat stress where we may not be very well prepared," he told Reuters.

Rising temperatures can aggravate the aftermath of disasters, as well as causing creeping changes from higher temperatures such as disruptions to food production. "Climate change just adds another reason why we should be getting on with controlling malaria, diarrhoea and dealing with the problem of malnutrition," said Campbell-Lendrum. "Those are the big challenges.

U.N. studies project global warming will cause more droughts, wildfires, heat waves, floods, mudslides and rising sea levels -- all threats for an increasing human population set to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 6.8 billion now. And it is often the after-effects of natural disasters that are the worst, in terms of extra deaths.

Deaths from extreme weather this year such as in Pakistan's floods "are a warning that we need to renew efforts to bring climate change under control," said Andrew Haines, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. "There is an increased death rate from indirect causes -- people become impoverished, so child death rates that are not normally counted rise," Haines said…

"Knight, Death, and the Devil," from 1513 by the ever-cheerful Albrecht Durer

No comments: