Health warning on climate change
Climate change will
present the greatest threat to health this century, amplifying the risk
of disease, malnutrition and homelessness through floods, drought and
rising sea levels, a medical panel said on Thursday. ‘Even the most
conservative estimates are profoundly disturbing and demand action,’
said the report, compiled over a year by The Lancet medical journal and
experts from the Institute for Global Health at University College
‘Climate change is the
biggest global health threat of the 21st century.’ The commission drew
much of its data from the landmark Fourth Assessment Report, issued in
2007 by the UN’s Nobel-winning climate experts, the Intergovernment
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Changing weather patterns could widen the habitat of disease-bearing
mosquitoes, bringing malaria and dengue to previously cold regions,
while flooding in poor countries will be a boon for cholera and other
Indirect effects on health include malnutrition as a result of poor
harvests; injury and death from storms; and vulnerability from
migration, as populations flee swamped delta cities or civil unrest.
‘Estimates show that small increases in the risk for climate-sensitive
conditions, such as diarrhoea and malnutrition, could result in very
large increases in the total disease burden,’ it said.
Poor countries that are least to blame for global warming will be hit
most, ‘a source of historical shame to our generation if nothing is done
to address it,’ the authors said.