such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
Global warming could do more to hurt your health than simply threaten
summertime heat stroke, says a public health physician. Although heat
related illnesses and deaths will increase with the temperatures,
climate change is expected to also attack human health with dirtier air
and water, more flood-related accidents and injuries, threats to food
supplies, hundreds of millions of environmental refugees, and stress on
and possible collapse of many ecosystems that now purify our air and
"When most people think about climate change, they think of heat
stress from heat waves," said Cindy Parker, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "The heat wave in
Western Europe in 2003 killed in excess of 30,000 people who wouldn't
have died otherwise. With climate change, heat waves will become more
severe, and last for longer periods of time."
"Scientists (in the U.S.) haven't done a good job of communicating
why climate change is important to regular people," said Parker, who
was invited to give a presentation on the health hazards of global
warming at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in
Philadelphia. Parker will speak in a Pardee Keynote Symposium on
Sunday, 22 October.
"The other thing that has gotten a lot of media attention is the
increased risk of infectious diseases," said Parker. "This is of
greater concern to other parts of the world than the United States."
That's because the U.S. has good public health systems that can track
down infectious diseases, such as malaria, and intervene so they don't
spread, she said.
"In my professional opinion, some of the less direct impacts will be much more devastating for us," said Parker.
Hurricane Katrina was a primer on the matter. Global warming will
bring bigger storms and hurricanes that will hold more water, according
to climate scientists. Katrina showed how the water from a hurricane
does far more damage than the high winds. All that flooding brings with
it a host of direct and indirect health problems.
"As we saw from New Orleans, we're not good at evacuating people
during storms." What's worse, she said, you can't evacuate critical
infrastructure. "Our biggest medical centers have been built in our
Thirteen of the 20 largest cities on earth are located at sea level
on coasts, Parker points out. "As sea level rises, there go our medical
institutions, water treatment plants, emergency response units such as
fire departments and ambulances. The bulk of the services designed to
keep us healthy are almost all located in our larger cities, which are
also located frequently at sea level."
Then there is the matter of water. Clean water is one of the most
basic and critical health needs. But climate change is threatening
water supply quantities in many areas as well as water quality.
"Even without climate change, water is already in short supply,"
said Parker. "But under changed climate conditions, precipitation
patterns are expected to change." That means droughts and famines could
become more prominent.
Worsening water quality is expected to go hand-in-hand with the
continuing deterioration of the natural ecosystems all around us.
"We rely on our ecosystems to provide very basic services to us,"
Parker explained. "Despite our technology, we can't live without clean
water, clean air, and soil to produce food. We rely on healthy
ecosystems to provide these basic and absolute necessities."
Forests, for example, absorb carbon dioxide from the environment,
photosynthesize, and release oxygen as a waste product, which is
essential for animal life. Similarly, with water, a healthy ecosystem
such as a forest or wetland can filter a lot of toxins out of water and
provide us with clean drinking water.
Water supplies and water quality are already major health problems
worldwide. In most years, drought and famine cause more than half of
all deaths from natural disasters. Already 1.8 million people, mostly
children, die each year from diarrheal diseases caused by contaminated
water. Climate change will just make this worse, Parker says.
Another absolute and basic need is, of course, food. That's also
facing trouble, says Parker. Climate change will bring huge changes to
how we grow food. Studies are mounting that show crops are likely to be
more negatively affected by climate change than previously thought. "We
need to steel ourselves from changes and, quite likely, reductions in
food supplies from around the world."
All these changes, plus displacements of millions of people as was
seen after Hurricane Katrina, pose health threats for everyone. But the
most vulnerable members of our societies will be hardest hit, such as
children, elders, city dwellers, and those who are socio-economically
disadvantaged, says Parker. Planning for these threats and taking
measures to minimize impacts is happening much too slowly, she said.
"These measures don't necessarily require a lot of money and we
already have the new technology," she said. "I'm a preventive medicine
physician, and I use that training and way of thinking with respect to
climate change as well. It makes a whole lot more sense to me to
prevent our climate from more instability rather than waiting and
putting our research and resources into trying to fix problems after
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