Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century

Another reason to worry about climate change.

Climate change won’t just destroy or damage the environment it will damage our health that is the opinion of UCL global institute for health

Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century –  Why?

We’re in the middle of a full blown climate crisis that has been drowned out by the financial crisis, swine flu and MP’s expenses but recent scientific findings on gas emission, global temperatures, sea level changes, ocean acidity, ice sheets extreme events are all pointing to the very worst case scenario.

Our report written by a whole team of people – anthropologists ecologists, economists, students has concluded that this is the greatest health threat of the 21st centaury – for reasons that we have known about in the past – changing patterns of infections, insect bourne diseases, increased deaths due to heat waves– heat is a silent killer – in 2003 there was a minor heat wave in Europe and up to 70,000 people died, there’s been a heat wave in the last month in northern India and Bangladesh – many 100’s of deaths reported in hospitals – this is going to get much much worse.

But you will get people – people here in the Uk who will say look outside – it’s cool, were having as cool summer we had a cool summer last year – where is the problem with climate change?

We’re at the beginning of the problem – we are only at .8 of a degree above pre industrial levels and of course the UK – a cool damp climate is one of the last places to suffer from these early effects but up in the Himalayas the glaciers are melting, last year was the biggest flood in India in Bihar because the Kosi river changed course and the newspapers are full of it where they are already above 2 degrees saying are more glaciers going to melt. The Chinese are very afraid of mountain tsunamis from this – the biggest effects of this over the next 20 to 40 years will be of food security and water security – which in turn affects health – malnutrition, diahorrearal disease and the like.

Last year we saw from the financial crisis the rise in food prices dramatic effects on hunger, food riots and its estimate that over a billion people have a calorie deficient diet. If crop yields fall as the crop scientists say they will do so as temperatures rise (this is data from America) then we’re going to have a much bigger problem over the next 10 years.

Is there evidence that that is already happening ?

Climate change is already happening. We already have many water stressed areas – on every continent there are droughts – in Australia, in China, in Africa and of course cities are coming under stress and we’re not just talking about the poorest cities Adelaide, Barcelona, Mexico Delhi all suffering increasing water stress.

Extreme events – as temperatures rise wind speeds go up, we’ll have more hurricanes, more tornadoes, cyclones a lot of people living in very poor accommodation increasing urbanisation shanty towns they are going to be much more vulnerable.

These are not things that Doctors can do anything about and shouldn’t really worry about we’re not talking about things that are only to do with doctors and nurses although that would be important were talking about population health population migration on a very very large scale that will happen when these events take place – it’s a very grim future for our children and our grandchildren

Any cause for Optimism? Definitely – we must add our voice to the campaign to get emissions down and slow climate change but there are lots of things we can do – the biggest culprits here are us. Moving to a low carbon lifestyle will have many health benefits – less stress, less obesity, less diabetes less heart disease – we’ve got to start that movement now and we don’t have a lot of time

Thanks to Professor Costello interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Today programme during a report that began pronouncing climate change to be the biggest global health threat of the 21st Century.

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