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Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
Date:5/14/2009

chool of Rural Public Health. "The big issue is the model: When will global warming become a problem?"

The report based its predictions on a 2- to 6-degree warming over the next century but focusing on a pessimistic 4-degree rise, said Mark Maslin, director of UCL's Environment Institute.

Among the health consequences of such a rise:

  • Vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, once confined to warmer areas, will move north and become more widespread as a result of increased temperatures.
  • Heat waves will kill more people in more areas of the world (more than 70,000 people died during a heat wave in Europe in 2003).
  • Crop yields will decline, leading to greater food insecurity in a world where 800 million already go to bed hungry every night.
  • Water shortages will lead to more gastroenteritis and malnutrition, among other health problems.
  • Extreme climactic events such as flash flooding due to changing rainfall patterns and melting ice sheets will hinder the world's sewage systems, leading to diarrhea and other problems, said Dr. Hugh Montgomery, director of UCL's Institute for Human Health and Performance. Severe cyclones and hurricanes will also take more lives.
  • More people living in cities will lead to a shortage of housing, which will lead to slums, which will lead to inadequate sanitation systems and increased vulnerability to extreme weather events.

The authors propose adopting policies to reduce carbon emissions and increase carbon biosequestration and to equalize the world's health systems, among other recommendations.

"We have a moral dilemma: How do we protect the health of the poorest people in the world and allow them to develop," Maslin said.

"There are so many public health issues associated with global warming that certainly, once it becomes a significant problem, it will be the most significant public health p
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