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Climate Change Puts Global Health at Risk

5/22/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: climate change, global warming, health risks

We’ve known that climate change could impact human health for years—and now we have affirmation from the medical community. 

A new report from the international medical journal The Lancet identifies climate change as the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. New evidence suggests that climate change is happening faster than originally anticipated. In the past century and a half, 12 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the last 13 years. As temperatures across the globe rise, billions of people—especially the poor—will be at risk for major health concerns. 

Food shortages
If climate change continues at its current rate, millions could face malnutrition because of food shortages. Photo By uncultured/Courtesy Flickr 


Disease: Warmer climates mean rodent- and vector-borne diseases (transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs), such as malaria, Lyme disease, dengue fever and others, will spread faster than ever. Experts expect that by 2080 we’ll see 320 million additional cases of malaria, a disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Decreased rainfall in some regions is also expected to make access to clean water more difficult, which will likely increase the spread of disease. 

Food shortage: Rising temperatures, drought and erratic rainfall are expected to result in the breakdown of agricultural systems, leaving millions without food. Hunger, illness and death because of malnutrition in places such as Africa and other underdeveloped regions will worsen. Experts say half the world’s population could face food shortages by the end of the century. 

Natural disasters: A changing climate also increases the number and intensity of hurricanes, heat waves, flash floods and other natural disasters. Developing countries will probably be hit worst, as inadequate housing exposes more people to the weather’s effects. 

The report also calls for an international coalition study the health effects of current global climate change, but you don’t have to be part of that to make a difference. Start where you are by taking steps to reduce your carbon emissions at home, or checking out Natural Home’s tips for reducing global warming.

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