Health professionals around the world have issued a variety of warnings about the impact of global warming on human health.
College President, Dr. Renee Arnold, says the negative health effects of climate change will be irreversible "if we don't get our act together now and stop damaging our environment."
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has issued a warning of 150,000 deaths a year as a direct result of climate change, with more than half coming from the Asia-Pacific region.
This number of fatalities will be caused by increases in malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea as well as by flooding triggered by climate change. Citing outbreaks of malaria in regions once considered too cold for the disease to survive – such as the highlands of Papua new Guinea – WHO spokesman Shigeru Omi describes the health effects of climate change as lasting for the long term: "it is inevitable climate change will get worse for some time," Omi said.
Related health developments cited by the WHO include:
- Increased water-borne illness caused by sea water seepage into ground water supplies in
Pacific Islandnations such as Tuvulu and the Marshall Islands
- Deaths caused by increased flooding and droughts
- The spread of disease caused by the migration of people rendered homeless through environmental degradation
In a separate report, the WHO has also highlighted the link between climate change and mental health with evidence that extreme weather conditions can lead to psychiatric illness.
"Psychosocial illnesses are a part of the various health issues associated with climate change," according to Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Deputy Regional Director of the WHO.
Studies of severe flooding in
The relationship between drought and mental health has been long established: "The phenomenon of farmers’ suicides in
Following the Asian tsunami, the WHO estimated that 20-40 per cent of affected people suffered from short-term mild psychological distress and that another 30-50 per cent experienced moderate-to-severe psychological stress. Similar results emerged from those affected by Hurricane Katrina in the
The report concludes that people living in poverty, those in geographically vulnerable areas and those highly dependent on farming for their livelihood are among the groups more likely to experience mental health problems sparked by extreme weather patterns.
Australian doctors, meanwhile, have warned of increased rates of climate-change related illness in
Dr Graeme Horton is quoted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation as saying, "Climate change is clearly much, much more than an economic inconvenience, it is a threat to our life support systems."
The final warning comes from the British Medical Association which is calling on health professionals to take the lead in responding to the public health aspects of climate change.
Predictions include the possibility of malaria occurring in the
The BMA report predicts an economic imbalance in the health effects of climate change in the
Exactly one year after this post was published, evidence was submitted today by the US Environmental Protection Agency confirming that greenhouse gases represent a significant and direct threat to human health. Findings include:
- concentrations of six greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluorideare - are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions
- these high levels are "very likely" the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate
- Climate change is resulting in increased drought and flooding; more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires; greater sea level rise; harm to water resources, agriculture, wildlife and ecosystems
- the health of the poor, the very young, the disabled and the elderly are disproportionately effected by climate change and increased concentrations of ground-level ozone
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