Thursday, February 12, 2009

Panel warns climate change poses serious risks to national security, health Failure to combat climate change could put the national security of the United States at risk, a panel of experts warned lawmakers Thursday. In a hearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, witnesses warned of potentially catastrophic consequences if carbon emissions are not reduced.

….Retired General Gordon R. Sullivan warned that climate change is a "serious threat" to national security, in addition to being a "threat multiplier." "Many areas of the world that will be the hardest hit by climate change impacts are already being stressed by lack of water, lack of food, and political and social unrest," he said, explaining the meaning of "threat multiplier." "Adding climate change to this mix will only serve to exacerbate the existing instabilities."

In order to combat the rapidly escalating problem of climate change, Sullivan urged the United States to "show leadership on developing energy alternatives that reduce our reliance on fossil fuels from unstable regions of the world, reduce our energy consumption, and improve our nation's energy posture."

He was echoed by Dr. Kristie Ebi, Lead Author of the Public Health Chapter of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report. The report found, among other things, that the Arctic could be ice free in the summer far sooner than the original 2040 horizon, even within a few years. These rapid changes pose serious health risks, both direct and indirect, Ebi said, as climate change will alter environmental systems on which humans depend.

"Increases in the frequency, intensity, and length of heatwaves, with the highest risks among older adults, those with chronic medical conditions, infants and children, pregnant women, urban and rural poor, and outdoor workers. With limited mitigation or adaptation, heat-related mortality is projected to increase several-fold," she said, citing her report. "Increases in the frequency and intensity of other extreme weather events, including floods, droughts, wildfires, and windstorms, with the risks highest among the poor, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions, and those with mobility and cognitive constraints," she continued….

Europe's 2003 heat wave compared to normal temperatures

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