World Health Organization (WHO) is setting aside $10 million to inform individuals and governments on the health dangers linked to climate change. From rising to sea levels, to dried up rivers and erratic destructive weather patterns human health and safety is increasingly at risk today. In Manila, climate change is being blamed as one of the key factors in increased incidence of malaria and dengue fever (according to the WHO).
"At least 150,000 more people are dying each year of malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition and floods, all of which can be traced to climate change," said Shigeru Omi, the head of the WHO's Western Pacific office. "More than half of those deaths are in Asia."
Health experts blame malaria carrying mosquito's which are appearing in areas where they were previously not found. Malaria is responsible for over 100,000 deaths a year, and dengue fever causes some 50 million cases of infection,h alf a million of which require hospitalization and 12, 500 of which result in death. But news of this is not news to scientists and public health officials. The increased numbers of death from heat stroke and dehydration from extreme weather conditions, to increases in asthma and other respiratory diseases from smog are on a long laundry list of concerns that are plaguing public health officials worldwide.
The EPA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are examining the effects of climate change on human health in the United States, through a study call Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product. This investigation is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2008. The key questions they are looking to address include the following:
- What are the potential human health effects of global environmental change?
- What climate, socioeconomic, and environmental information is needed to assess the cumulative risk to health in the United States ?
- Assess these effects to inform adaptations in the provision of public health and health care interventions.
In the meantime as investigations continue into the "potential health effects" - the numbers from the real world health effects are staggering. Climate change is not a threat for us in the future, but is actually impacting and taking lives today.
- In the United States, Chicago is projected to experience 25 percent more frequent heat waves and Los Angeles a four-to-eight-fold increase in heat wave days by the end of the century. Increases in heart failure and strokes as as complications from asthma and other lung diseases, are epidemic.
- The IPCC has noted that the global population at risk from vector-borne malaria will increase by between 220 million and 400 million over the next century. While most of the increase is predicted to occur in Africa, some increased risk is projected in Britain, Australia, India and Portugal
- Air quality continues to be a growing issue. Without significant changes to current smog regulations, respiratory illness continues to escalate. In addition, "particulate matter," another air born hazard resulting from pollution has become a growing concern. Particulate matter is a complex mixture of extremely small hazardous particles and liquid droplets. When breathed in, these particles can reach the deepest regions of the lungs. Exposure to particle pollution is linked to a variety of significant health problems. Particle pollution also is the main cause of visibility impairment (haze) in the nation’s cities and national parks.
- Other, less direct linkages exist between climate change and human health. For example, regional climate change impacts on agricultural yields and production are likely to grow over time, with the most negative effects expected in developing countries. This is expected to increase the number of undernourished people globally and consequently lead to complications in child development
While millions are aware of the long term dangers of climate change to our planet, many disregard how it is effecting them and their families today. The public must remain informed on the immediate issues at hand (see the problem through the eyes of personal relevancy), as well as take active stand to pressure local, state and federal governing bodies to enforce regulations protecting their environment on every level. Weather it is demanding stricter ozone regulations from the EPA to remaining active in protecting local Eco-systems and curbing deforestation - there are simply countless changes that can make a difference. Instead of being overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, individuals and companies need to realize that there is actually an overabundance of opportunity to improve the state of our environment through countless individual and social efforts. Pick your cause, and stick by it, not to just solve a major crises for some future generation - but to protect the interest, selfishly if you must, for yourself and your family today.
(Graph from United States Climate Change Science Program and statistics in post from EPA site)