Thursday, May 14, 2009

Climate change 'main health threat'

The Press Association: Climate change is the biggest health threat facing the world in the 21st century, experts have said. A major report from University College London lists direct and indirect effects of global warming that could have have a major impact on human health.

They include changing patterns of infection and insect-borne disease, heat waves, water shortages, malnutrition, extreme weather events such as hurricanes, large scale migration and inadequate living conditions. The health effects of climate change will be felt most severely in poorer countries that have contributed least to carbon emissions, say the authors.

They argue that international institutions and governments must do more to address the problem. An accelerated drive against world poverty and new technological approaches to preserve food and water supplies and prevent disease were also needed. The authors also called for a "stronger engagement by all individuals in the social and political aspects of moving to low-carbon living".

The report, launched jointly with The Lancet medical journal, warned that current climate forecasts may be too conservative. Global temperature rises above the "safe threshold" of 2C could lead to abrupt, severe and irreversible changes in climate, it was claimed. The worst case scenario of a 6% rise would be "catastrophic", said the experts. Lead author Professor Anthony Costello said: "The big message of this report is that climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation….

Ernest H├ębert's 1848 painting, "Malaria"

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