Climate change poses growing health threat, UN reports

Residents prepare to carry water containers after filling them from a government water supply truck in New Delhi, May 22, 2013
Residents prepare to carry water containers after filling them from a government water supply truck in New Delhi, May 22, 2013

Climate change poses a growing health threat, the UN warned on Wednesday, saying extreme weather and rising temperatures could claim hundreds of thousands of lives and spread disease.

"Climate change is no longer only an environmental issue," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, head of the climate change team at the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The UN agency Wednesday began a three-day conference at its Geneva base, folding together climate and .

The goal is to put health in the spotlight at a special UN Climate Summit in New York on September 23.

Campbell-Lendrum was lead author of the health chapter in a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which painted a bleak picture.

"If we don't act to reduce we'll be living on a planet which is basically in many important respects unsuitable, in many locations, for health," he told reporters.

Climate change affects a host of health-linked resources, such as clean air, safe drinking water, food and shelter. Warmer temperature and altered rainfall patterns may also extend the range of mosquitoes that spread malaria, dengue and chikungunya.

According to WHO figures, at current rates of change, an additional 250,000 lives could be lost per year between 2030 and 2050, with poor nations continuing to bear the brunt.

Malnutrition, which already kills 3.1 million people per year, would be to blame for 95,000 of those deaths.

Experts point to increasingly frequent, extreme and lengthy droughts in traditionally hard-hit regions, and the risk of water shortages elsewhere, all affecting agriculture.

Smog haze hangs over the downtown business districts of Hong Kong on December 10, 2013
Smog haze hangs over the downtown business districts of Hong Kong on December 10, 2013
"The prospects for rain-fed agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are highly dubious," warned New Zealand academic Alistair Woodward, a fellow IPCC report author.

Malaria, which currently kills 800,000 people annually, most of them African children under the age of five, could claim an extra 60,000 lives per year.

It is strongly influenced by climate change, with studies showing that warming enables the mosquitoes that spread it to flourish at more northerly and southerly latitudes and ever-higher altitudes.

Diarrhoea, a scourge in poor nations, would cause 48,000 additional deaths, due both to a scarcity of safe water in some regions and to increasing floods that contaminate supplies elsewhere.

Diarrhoea currently kills 600,000 children under the age of five every year.

Killer heatwaves

WHO said that extreme heat—which contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, notably among the elderly—could kill 38,000 more people a year.

"We know that heatwaves kill people. We proved that in Europe in 2003," said Campbell-Lendrum, referring to the crisis that claimed 70,000 lives.

He said heatwaves would likely soon be far more frequent.

Young Somali internally displaced persons salvage maize seeds at a food-aid distribution point outside Mogadishu, Somalia on Jun
Young Somali internally displaced persons salvage maize seeds at a food-aid distribution point outside Mogadishu, Somalia on June 15, 2009
"What is currently considered a one-in-20-year event will become a one-in-five-year event," he warned.

"At the same time, the population which is most vulnerable to heatwaves—old people living in cities—in many parts of the world is also going to go up by a factor of five or 10," he explained.

Heat also affects diseases linked to a sedentary lifestyle, such as cancer and diabetes, notably in the already-baking Middle East, he told AFP.

"Heat makes physical activity in the open air actually dangerous in such countries," he said.

By 2030, WHO said, the direct health-damage costs of could hit $2-4 billion (2.6-5.2 billion euros) per year.

Efforts to curb greenhouse gases pumped by fossil-fuel hungry industry and transport that stoke global warming could lower rates of pollution-related disease.

"By reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, we'll reduce pollutants, and therefore have a maximum benefit," said Maria Neira, head of WHO's public health and environment division.

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© 2014 AFP

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Aug 27, 2014
I don't suppose anyone wants to consider the CO2 concentration indoors is going to be driven exponentially higher depending on concentration outdoors. 400ppm indoor can easily go as high as 3000ppm.

1,000 – 2,000 ppm - level associated with complaints of drowsiness and poor air.
2,000 – 5,000 ppm – level associated with headaches, sleepiness, and stagnant, stale, stuffy air. Poor concentration, loss of attention, increased heart rate and slight nausea may also be present.

So it really can impact people, but again, how they don't seem to want to reveal.

Aug 27, 2014
Please disregard any Science from the UN. The UN is a political organization. It is not real science. The only thing that 97% of all scientist agree on is that 97% of scientist never agree. They are skeptics by nature.

Aug 27, 2014
Hurry, hurry, hurry, step right up folks and behold the wonder product of the century. Approved by 97% of scientists and guaranteed to stop floods, droughts, storms, wild fires, pestilence and melting glaciers. One bottle of patented Michael Mann Made Global Warming Genuine Miracle Elixir will cure all this and more. That's right folks, your purchase will save the world. If you are not 100% absolutely, positively satisfied, you'll receive double your money back*. Buy two bottles and you'll receive this complimentary hockey swizzle stick at no additional charge.
* (Refund provided in equivalent carbon credits, after the year 2100. Receipt required)

Aug 27, 2014
Yes, Global Warming is man-made. Here is the proof.

Aug 28, 2014
Oh look! 4 Idiot deniers in a row. Oh too much fun...Laughing at such dim bulbs! So do you all belong the same chapter of the flat earth society? When was the last time one you you creationist created anything? I know math had to be a challenge for you... in 1st grade.

What is a deniers miracle elixir? Fracking water!

In the mean time this is happening;

The bottom line is that current shifts every 30 years (more or less) causing heating or cooling just like El-Nino or La-Nina. The flatness in global temperature rise is due to this and it's about to change. Then the rich will eat you.

Aug 28, 2014
Wow howturd, it's amazing that a lone neuron can experience humor. Thanks for that insight now pass it on to the next in line in your peanut gallery.

Aug 28, 2014
Oh @Algoreacle, if you where only capable of being funny. peanut gallery. snark.

But back to the source of your animosity towards me; Is it because your are on the wrong side of the debate, and I'm right? Could it be that your pissed off because deep down you know facts are facts and you've been arguing on the stupid side?

Yeah I think that it. So fess up and be a flipper. Be a man and admit that your were wrong.

Aug 30, 2014
The political left is like Dr. Edward Morbius in Forbidden Planet using its political power to materialize a global warming id monster to destroy opposition to the left.

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