Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Australia on health alert amid worst heat wave in a century

Voice of America News: The Australian government is allocating more than $6 million to investigate the potential impact of climate change on health, as the country's southeasern corner endures its most severe heatwave since 1908. Meanwhile, a new U.S. study says the damaging effects of a climate change have become largely irreversible.

As parts of southern Australia sizzle in the sort of conditions not seen for a hundred years, the federal government has announced a multi-million dollar study on the impact of climate change on health. Researchers believe that a warmer climate is likely to have a profound impact on the well-being of Australians, including a higher incidence of mosquito-borne illnesses, heat exposure and mental illness.

Health authorities in northern Queensland are currently trying to contain an outbreak of potentially fatal dengue fever, which has so far affected about 200 people. Professor Tony McMichael from the Australian National University says warmer weather attributed to climate change could prove to be catastrophic to health.

"There are simple direct effects like the impact of increased frequency and severity of heat waves on rates of death; particularly in older persons," the professor said. "Of course with increased climatic variability, more extreme events, we're going to see also more injury and death and post-traumatic stress from things like cyclones and extreme bushfires."….

A hot air balloon over Brisbane, shot by Cyron Ray Macey from Brisbane, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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