DATA from the World Health Organisation indicates that climate change is driving up rates of infectious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria worldwide.
The WHO estimates that the warming climate contributes to more than 150,000 deaths and five million illnesses each year, a toll that could double by 2030.
Health and climate scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison — who conducted one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure the impact of global warming on health — said the WHO data also shows that rising temperatures disportionately affect poor countries that have done little to create the problem.
The reached their conclusions after plugging data on climate-sensitive diseases into mapping software.
"Global warming is not only an environmental problem, it’s a very serious health problem," said Dr. Joanathan Patz, lead author of the report and an associate professor at the Institute for Environmental Studies and the department of Population health sciences at the university.
"And it represents a huge global ethical challenge," he added. The regions most at risk from climate change include the Asian and South American Pacific coasts, as well as the Indian Ocean coast and sub-Saharan Africa.
Large cities are also likely to experience more severe health problems because they produce what scientists refer to as the urban "heat island" effect, in which cities register temperatures five to 10 degrees warmer than the outlying areas.
The latest study adds to growing evidence of a correlation between infectious diseases and climate change.
For example, Dr. Patz’s team found research that showed an increase in cases of malaria in the highlands of Kenya during the periods of extreme heat variability.
Another study documented a correlation between warming trends in Ethiopia and malarial infections.
Dr. Patz said researchers who have observed West Nile virus’ spread across the US have documented a correlation of its movement with hotter and drier weather — the weather of choice for the primary carrier of the virus, the Culex mosquito.
And just this week, WHO officials reported that warmer temperatures and heavy rains in South Asia have led to the worst outbreak of dengue fever there in years. The mosquito-borne illness, which is now beginning to taper off, has infected 120,000 South Asians this year and killed at least 1,000.
Senior US and international officials already regard climate-change as a major public health threat.
Dr. Howard Frumkin, who directs the National Centre for Environmental Health at the Centres for Disease Control and prevention, called Climate change "a significant global health challenge" in an interview this week.
Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a scientst at the WHO’s Department of Protection of the Human Environment, said its initial estimates of global warming-related deaths are conservative in light of Europe’s massive 2003 heat wave and new research linking climate change to more intensive hurricane activity.
"Climate change makes it even more important to combat diseases of the poor, many of which are highly climate-sensitive," he said.
Dr. Patz’s findings — published yesterday in the journal Nature — also come less than two weeks before officials from some 150 countries meet in Montreal to discuss how to curb greenhouse gases when the first phase of the Kyoto Treaty ends.
These emissions are expected to increase global average temperature by about 14 deg C by the end of the century, causing extreme flooding, more droughts and intense heatwaves.
~ WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS
人类的狂妄自大，已经深深伤害了 Mother Nature，现在是她复仇反扑的时候了。