Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate change to bring a wave of new health risks

22.02.2005


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 here today (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.

Jonathan Patz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht On track to heal leukaemia
18.01.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Penn vet research identifies new target for taming Ebola
12.01.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>