Climate change threatens human health

lancet_climate2A new report in The Lancet (registration required to access the full document), a leading international medical journal, provides more backing for EPA’s proposed finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health as well as public welfare. From the multi-authored report’s executive summary:

Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, earth’s average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above preindustrial average temperature. Rises will be greater at higher latitudes, with medium-risk scenarios predicting 2–3°C rises by 2090 and 4–5°C rises in northern Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. In this report, we have outlined the major threats—both direct and indirect—to global health from climate change through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration. Although vector-borne diseases will expand their reach and death tolls, especially among elderly people, will increase because of heatwaves, the indirect eff ects of climate change on water, food security, and extreme climatic events are likely to have the biggest eff ect on global health.

The report notes that the most severe impacts will be felt in developing nations. It calls for reductions in carbon emissions, especially what it terms “luxury emissions” by rich nations, actions to break the linkages between climate change and disease, and boosting public health systems to provide the capacity to respond to adverse health effects.

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