Public Health Impacts from Climate Change


Climate change prompts debate among experts about spread of tropical diseases (Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2011)

Also discussed here: Is Global Warming Harmful to Health? (7 page pdf, Scientific American, Aug. 2000)

In addition to the growing public health risks from vehicle emissions in cities, climate warming allows the spread of infectious diseases carried by insects from the tropics to eastern US and Canada and central Europe where they are not a major concern. The article reviewed today also looks at impacts resulting from more extreme weather events in these same areas by experts in the field and the debate over causes and most effective solutions to these threats, particularly in cities.


Key Quotes:

“Biological first principles suggest that warmer weather, by causing organisms to grow faster, will expand the range of disease-carrying insects and microbial pathogens.”

Extreme weather events such as heavy flooding and drought – thought to be linked to the warming of the oceans and to changes in the precipitation cycle – create conditions for waterborne illnesses that may be becoming more common in the United States,”

“dengue fever, a tropical disease that has exploded in South and Central America and across much of Asia in recent years..threatens temperate zones of the continental United States where mosquito vectors continue to expand,”

“It seems plausible that the geographic distribution of some infectious diseases may actually experience a net decline with climate change.. with, say, malaria declining in areas too hot for the malarial mosquitoes to live even as the disease spreads into previously cooler highland areas”

[on the other hand] “widespread claims that rising mean temperatures have already led to increases in worldwide malaria morbidity and mortality are largely at odds with observed decreasing global trends… dengue’s resurgence in parts of the tropics has resulted from urbanization and the failure of mosquito eradication campaigns, rather than climate change”

“cholera bacterium lives, often in a dormant state, in brackish estuaries and on zooplankton. As these tiny organisms multiply rapidly during warm periods, cholera can spring back to life”

“Climate change is definitely affecting disease dynamics, but the big question – will diseases be a bigger problem in a warmer, wetter, sometimes dryer world? – can’t be separated from the factor of diligent public health systems that are in place”

“I think it makes more sense to use our money on research and public health than carbon trading..We could do an awful lot, around the world, with not very much money”

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