Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate Change To Bring A Wave Of New Health Risks

Date:
February 25, 2005
Source:
University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Climate change will not only bring about a warmer world, it is also very likely to set the stage for an unhealthier one. As a result, governments and health officials need to begin to think about how to respond to an anticipated increase in the number and scope of climate-related health crises, ranging from killer heat waves and famine, to floods and waves of infectious diseases.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Climate change will not only bring about a warmer world, it is also very likely to set the stage for an unhealthier one.

Related Articles


As a result, governments and health officials need to begin to think about how to respond to an anticipated increase in the number and scope of climate-related health crises, ranging from killer heat waves and famine, to floods and waves of infectious diseases.

That, in a nutshell, was the message delivered to scientists Feb. 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) by Jonathan A. Patz, an authority on the human health effects of global environmental change.

As the world's climate warms, and as people make widespread alterations to the global landscape, human populations will become far more vulnerable to heat-related mortality, air pollution-related illnesses, infectious diseases and malnutrition, Patz says.

"We are destined to have some warming," says Patz, a professor of environmental studies and population health studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But it won't be a gradually warming world that triggers future health crises, says Patz, a scientist based at the UW-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment. It will be a dramatic increase in severe weather events - major storms, heat waves, flooding - triggered by a shifting global climate that will wreak most of the human health havoc.

"Averages don't kill people - it is the extremes," Patz explains.

The issue, Patz says, is how are we going to adapt? If we don't do something to mitigate the potential human health effects of climate change, the world, beginning at the local and regional level, will begin to experience climate-related catastrophe.

"In the face of climate change, what are the adaptive measures at many and variable scales that we can take to reduce the health impact of climate change? That's what we need to be thinking about," he says.

The Wisconsin scientist suggests we may already be seeing the health consequences of a warmer world: The heat wave that struck Europe in the summer of 2004 claimed an estimated 22,000-35,000 lives, mostly the infirm, elderly and poor.

"That event was so far out of the normal climate range that one analysis pegs it as a signal of climate change," Patz explains. "So what are we going to be adapting to? It won't be creeping temperatures. What we may see is an increased frequency of these extreme events."

Moreover, as temperature regimes change, weather patterns will be altered and increased rainfall will facilitate the spread of waterborne and food-borne disease. And increased local rainfall also will make life easier for the insects and animals that carry some human diseases.

One strategy to mitigate future climate-related health problems, according to Patz, would be to develop and use climate forecasts and warning systems to avert disease and adverse health outcomes.

Such tools are already coming into play. Strong El Nino events, for example, tend to trigger heavier rainfall in the American southwest, setting the stage for rodent population booms and increased risk of exposure to hanta virus, a sometimes deadly disease transmitted through rodent urine and droppings.

Such events can be predicted with confidence, and if higher risk is forecast, people can prepare by mouse-proofing their homes and taking other measures to minimize contact with the source of a serious disease.

"The key will be early detection, warning and responding to threats," Patz says.

In urban areas, steps are already being taken to mitigate the effects of warmer climate and the "heat island" effect created by cities. Rooftop gardens are being encouraged by, among others, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and creating more reflective surfaces by painting rooftops white and using reflective materials in paving projects may reduce overall warming.

It will be important, says Patz, to avoid maladaptation. Increased use of air conditioners, for example, will provide immediate relief and is an important protection during an acute heat event. But the fossil fuels burned to generate the electricity to drive those air conditioners, as well as over-dependence on electric power grid functioning could potentially exacerbate the problem.

"Short-sighted fixes must be avoided," Patz says.

Improving deficiencies in such things as watershed protection, infrastructure and drainage systems would ease the risk of water contamination events. At present in the United States, a developed nation where most people have access to treated water, as many as 9 million cases of waterborne disease are estimated to occur each year.

With climate change, those numbers are likely to go up, says Patz, unless significant steps are taken to minimize the likelihood of sewage overflows and other weather related events that contaminate water supplies.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Climate Change To Bring A Wave Of New Health Risks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 February 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223141555.htm>.
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. (2005, February 25). Climate Change To Bring A Wave Of New Health Risks. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223141555.htm
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Climate Change To Bring A Wave Of New Health Risks." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223141555.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Antarctic Sea Ice Mystery Thickens... Literally

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — Antarctic sea ice isn't only expanding, it's thicker than previously thought, and scientists aren't sure exactly why. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

3D Map of Antarctic Sea Ice to Shed Light on Climate Change

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A multinational group of scientists have released the first ever detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. Using an underwater robot equipped with sonar, the researchers mapped the underside of a massive area of sea ice to gauge the impact of climate change. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Yellow-Spotted Turtles Rescued from Trafficking

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) — Hundreds of Amazon River turtles released into the wild in Peru. Sharon Reich reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins