By Janet Fang
Posting in Cities
Earth Day Special Feature 2011: The global healthcare industry must begin lobbying for a low-carbon future. Why? Because the effects of lowering greenhouse gas emissions benefit health, a study says.
Moving past the doom and gloomy fatalism of climate change, scientists are looking towards positive action, calling upon the health sector to join the mitigation or adaptation debate.
The health effects of climate change haven’t received much attention from climate scientists and governments. (For example, in preparation for Copenhagen in 2009, only 4 of 47 nations mentioned human health as a consideration.)
Now, a University College London paper calls on the health sector to play a more prominent role in lobbying for the reduction of greenhouse gases.
As it turns out, many measures to reduce emissions in household energy, transportation, food, agriculture, and electricity generation have benefits for health. These include (as we’ve already heard, but just as a reminder) increasing active transport like walking and cycling and decreasing car use, reducing the high consumption of animal products, and generating electricity from low-carbon sources.
As a result (or even a side effect), we could see reductions in:
- child mortality from acute respiratory infections
- ischemic heart disease in adults
- obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
- stress and depression
- pneumonia and asthma
- Not to mention the cost savings within the health sector.
The researchers answer some questions raised by climate ‘catastrophists,’ as they say:
- Will populations succumb to heat stress?
Human populations can survive in high temperatures; many groups are even well adapted to these climes. But exceeding 35 degrees Celsius (or 95 degrees Fahrenheit) for extended periods would induce hyperthermia, and the risk rises sharply with climate warming of several degrees.
- Will the spread of infectious diseases cause major increases in mortality rates?
While the transmission rates of vector-borne diseases Dengue and malaria may rise with increasing geographical spread of mosquitoes, control measures as part of good public health should continue to limit epidemics. Predictions of an intensification of malaria in a warmer world must be considered against a century of warming that has seen marked global declines in the disease – especially with the use of preventatives like repellents and bed nets.
The biggest threat from infectious disease probably comes from unknown emerging infections crossing from animals to humans, which could increase with species elimination or loss of wilderness.
- Will reduced food production increase the risk of hunger and famines?
There are definitely risks of reduced crop yields, increased pests, drought or too much rainfall at the wrong time, and increasing scarcity of water and land. (The amount of arable land per person worldwide has halved over the past 40 years because of increased food demands.)
But there are many reasons to be optimistic! For example, new seeds that are drought- or flood-resistant and cheaper access to desalinated water through nanotechnology.
Lastly, the authors call for increased investments in order to provide effective public health responses to climate-induced threats to health.
Health facilities, after all, act as early warning systems for epidemics and nutritional deterioration. So, they say, investment in health systems to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is also a longer-term investment to manage the health effects of climate change.
The review was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.
Image by imelenchon via morgueFile
More from SmartPlanet's Earth Day Special Feature 2011:
- Why cities are on the ‘cutting edge of environmentalism’
- Earthquake could threaten California’s water supply
- Tech, sustainability meet on the robotic marijuana farm
- Invention may lead to greener power plants
- Accidental environmentalist designs furniture from invasive species
- When it comes to packaging, is it possible to be ‘too’ green?
- Reuse and recycling, a modest proposal
- 10 steps toward making your home ‘net zero’
Apr 21, 2011
@rierat1 "#14, how many of those people in Texas and Arizona are living without air conditioning? That's not an option for many in less wealthy countries." Whehter they have or have not airconditioning, it's just as hot. The populations of these countries are not "succumbing to heat stress" even though they live in climates hotter than Texas and Arizona. I grew up in Texas, and we didn't have central a/c. It was hot! I'm still alive some 50-odd years later. Data from the East Anglia Center for Climatic Research is suspect. Historical data sets are more belieivable because today some people have adopted a political agenda and they've been twisting the scientific evidence to fit their story. El Nino/La Nina had more influence on recent temperatures than greenhouse emissions. Temperature readings from surface stations are suspect because many arre improperly positioned and failed to take into account the "heat island" effect of major cities. It's not about the science. It's about ideological position. Those pushing man-made climate change want to control what kind of food you eat, what kind of car you drive, what kind of house you live in. It's about power and control.
bb_apptix (#13) Global warming is continuing despite all the claims that it has stopped. Climate change is also a perfectly acceptable thing to call it. It's your side of the argument that's making a big fuss over semantics. 2010 is tied as the warmest year in the instrument record. The way things are shaping up with a probable El Nino and peaking of the current solar cycle 2012 is almost a sure thing to set a new all time record unless there is a very large volcanic eruption. The Earth has not been warming since "the peak of the last ice age." The temperature hit a peak about 9,000 years ago during the Holocene climatic optimum and has generally been slowly declining since then... until the recent spate of anthropogenically forced global warming. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_climatic_optimum #14, how many of those people in Texas and Arizona are living without air conditioning? That's not an option for many in less wealthy countries.
H.I. #19, I gave you a link to the data graph that clearly shows that there was no ozone hole 1967-71. It was there in 1986. It got steadily worse, bottoming out in 1993. It pretty much stayed there until 2006, when it began to ease up some, although it's still there big-time, as shown by the data collected. Data source: Earth System Research Lab website. Poking around on your Cambridge Centre for Atmospheric Science, I found this very interesting link: http://www.atm.ch.cam.ac.uk/images/easoe/total_ozone.gif It charts the lack of an ozone hole back to 1956! Then it shows the steady drop charted by the data from my link. The interesting thing for me was to find out that the ozone hole wasn't really noticed until 1980, then they started looking backward and found that indeed, the hole did not exist in earlier year data. That's science at its best in my book. So thanks for helping me make my point.
So polar cooling fed increased cloud cover, which slowed the natural production of ozone. Which was aggravated by the manmade CFCs. Got it. One observation. Polar cooling in this situation is one reason why climate change is now the preferred term instead of global warming.
The guys linked to above need to speak with the researchers in Cambridge. When people quoting data conflict with the people collecting and analyzing the data I will go with the latter group of people. That is why I never trust people who write articles based on stories written by other people who did the actual interviews with the people who did the research. Interviews can be written in a manner misquoting the speaker. People referencing that interview twist answers, paraphrase quotes and lie by omission when they leave out information that does not support their agenda. Chase the data back to the source and you often hear a different tale being told.
HI #17, Did you not look at the data link above that showed there wasn't a hole in the 70s, it kept increasing and peaked in 1993, when CFCs and Mt. Pinatubo combined for a double whammy? Check out the geophysical journals for more corroboration--you have to go to the primary sources/scientific journals if you want to get the true story, which is typically more complex than what is reported in popular media. For instance, check out the following: GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 31, L04116, 4 PP., 2004 doi:10.1029/2003GL018844 Arctic ozone loss and climate change (Abstract follows) "We report the first empirical quantification of the relation between winter-spring loss of Arctic ozone and changes in stratospheric climate. Our observations show that ?15 DU additional loss of column ozone can be expected per Kelvin cooling of the Arctic lower stratosphere, an impact nearly three times larger than current model simulations suggest. We show that stratospheric climate conditions became significantly more favorable for large Arctic ozone losses over the past four decades; i.e., the maximum potential for formation of polar stratospheric clouds increased steadily by a factor of three. Severe Arctic ozone loss during the past decade occurred as a result of the combined effect of this long-term climate change and the anthropogenic increase in stratospheric halogens." Translation: it's not just anthropogenic CFCs, its anthropogenic climate change too.
From the University of Cambridge Centre for Atmospheric Science. Dramatic loss of ozone in the lower stratosphere over Antarctica was first noticed in the 1970s by a research group from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who were monitoring the atmosphere above Antarctica from a research station. Further reading confirms they have no data to support or deny the existence of a hole in the ozone prior to the 1970s. They do have about 40 years of data that shows the size of the hole fluctuates, but an honest answer is they still lack data that conclusively proves man made the holes in the first place. Since being found in the 1970s the size of the holes, North Pole and South Pole, have fluctuated, but have generally remained stable since the 1980s. There are scientists who are now saying that CFCs may take up to 50 more years to clear from the atmosphere and the holes permanently close. It is convenient that they pushed it out far enough that all of them will likely be dead by the time anyone could say they were wrong. The data accumulated does confirm the size of the holes is seasonal which suggest a natural phenomenon.
The difference is in how different countries define "child mortality". The US uses a comparatively extreme definition, in that we count every baby who shows any sign of life, irrespective of size or weight at birth. By contrast, in much of Europe, babies born before 26 weeks' gestation are not considered "live births." Switzerland only counts babies who are at least 30 centimeters long (11.8 inches) as being born alive. In Canada, Austria and Germany, only babies weighing at least a pound are considered live births. By excluding the smallest and must vulnerable fetus', these countries have simply redefined about one-third of what we call "infant deaths" in America as "miscarriages." Moreover, many industrialized nations, such as France, Hong Kong and Japan -- the infant mortality champion -- don't count infant deaths that occur in the 24 hours after birth. Almost half of infant deaths in the U.S. occur in the first day. Imagine how the US would rank if we did not count any child that did not survive 24 hours. It would be a much different picture.
"we could see reductions in: child mortality" The United States has a higher infant mortality rate than just about every modern country; it's one of the highest. This has nothing to do with "global climate change", and everything to do with common practice. In Europe, where every country has a lower infant mortality rate than the US, at least 80% of all births are attended by a midwife, and Cesarian sections are rare.
"But exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit for extended periods would induce hyperthermia, and the risk rises sharply with climate warming of several degrees." Puh-lease. Tell that to the millions who live in the 10-40 window, wheres summer temperatures average over 95F for months. Even here in the US. Texas and Arizona are over 95F every day for months.
cd3rd is correct. "What happened to "global warming"?" It supplanted Global Cooling, which was being forecast by eminent scientists in the 1970s. SInce "Global Warming" ended, these eminent scientists changed the term to Global Climate Change. Additionally, other eminent scientists are shifting back towards global cooling. Who are these eminient scientists? Al Gore, Michael Moore, and those yahoos who faked and manipulated data to "prove" Global Warming. Did the earth have an ice age? If so, then the earth has been warming ever since the peak of the last ice age.
#9 zackers, I have lived on a farm in Kansas most of my life as well, and as you well know, the key to both healthy humans and farm animals are the sanitation practices used. Most diseases in human history have been alleviated through cultural practices, and this still will be the case with or without climate change. That doesn't mean that some pretty nasty tropical diseases can't shift their ranges northward as the climate continues to change, necessitating new programs to fight their spread, all of which cost money. There's certainly no harm trying to project where these might be needed and plan accordingly, any more than trying to prevent mad cow disease from spreading on ranches, something that has no connection to climate change. Not sure what your point is about food production. Sure, shifting climate patterns will mean better growing conditions to the north, but living in Kansas, I'm sure as heck concerned about what it will do for my area, aren't you? Seed companies are already producing new varieties, but guess what? Lots more money-- surprise, surprise!
John #6 I will take at face value your sincerity and attempt to address your questions: #1: What happened to global warming is that it continues merrily along, despite the media turning its attention deficit focus elsewhere. You said you were underwhelmed by the ncdc website, but there are plenty of other sites that can help you get an even more comprehensive grasp of the situation, if you have an inquiring, open mind. You might try http://www.skepticalscience.com/, where you can find many of your questions answered, like the antarctic ice question (short answer: sea ice is increasing, land ice is melting, which will impact sea levels) or www.realclimate.org for a climatologist's perspective on methodologies and in-depth answers to climate denier positions. 2) 1 degree doesn't sound like much, but first of all it's celsius, not fahrenheit, and secondly, the difference between stable ice masses, stable methane sea beds and climatological patterns and destabilized patterns of all of the above hinge on these small ranges. Secondly, there is an increasing possibility that there could be up to 4 degrees celsius changes this century, depending on the levels of CO2 emissions and a host of variables and an increasing realization that the IPCC reports may have been overly conservative in their projections. See the Jan. 2011 Royal Society journal for details. 3) Ozone levels reached a minimum in 1993, when human emissions were coupled with the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. If another eruption of that scale occurs, it will drop to those levels once again--it's still happening on an annual basis, just not at the extreme levels of 1993. Note that the hole didn't exist before the '70s. See http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/spo_oz/spototal.html for more details. 4) See the skepticalscience website noted above for details on Antarctic ice levels 5) It was the early reports of potential cooling that prompted NASA and NOAA to start collecting more data to refine our understanding. Once they started filling in the holes in the data, the true warming trends became obvious, and the certainty of those conclusions have only increased with more time and data. Science, unlike politics, follows the data. That's why it's so important.
I grew up on a farm with a lot of hogs. There's only one or two diseases that commonly move between humans and hogs, the worst by far being the flu. That said, I spent literally spent thousands of hours over 18 years treating sick hogs that had scours (dysentery), swine flu, various strains of pneumonia, etc., and never once got sick from them (in fact, I hardly ever got sick at all in all that time). The idea that global warming will cause more diseases to be transferred between humans and animals is mere speculation at this point. The same goes for the effect of global warming on crop land. Sure, some areas will lose, but other areas will gain. The US might be a net loser, but vast areas such as Canada and Russia could certainly use longer growing seasons. For example, around 20,000 years ago natural climate change caused the rains in equatorial Africa to shift north and transform the entire Sahara into one of the most fertile areas on earth. The deep aquifers that exist under the Sahara today are the remains of large lakes that existed during this time.
if you google "climate change" health you will find all the usual UN and EPA suspects. Add "socialist" to the search and you hit the mother lode. To control free people you have to control their healthcare, energy and education. The only way to do that in a free market system without taking over those industries, is to regulate them. Step One: use the education system and research funding to replace analytical thought with blind acceptance and fear of melting icecaps, rising oceans and dying polar bears.. Step Two: Declare that CO2, the one gas tied to over 80% of the worlds energy supply, is causing catastrophic global warming and it must be regulated at once. Step Three: Regroup after the earth starts cooling and declare that you really meant to say that CO2 causes "climate change". Wait a year or so until everyone forgets that you were lying to them about global warming. Step Four: Because the icecaps aren't melting and the polar bears really are OK, come up with a new way of scaring people about CO2 by telling them it is ruining their health. They never questioned you about the polar bears so they won't question you about this either. Step Five. Give up every aspect of control of your own life by letting central government bureaucrats protect you from everything scary thing in the whole wide world Step Six: Congratulate yourself for starting at step one because now no one is smart enough to realize you based the whole scheme on causal empirical observations.
It might seem counterintuitive at first, but the business arm of the health care sector acting solely on market forces will not necessarily share this viewpoint. First, I agree that being green can be quite healthy and has the potential to save on health care costs. Where I disagree is in assuming it's in the health care sectors interests to lower health care costs. Anything that improves health and saves on costs means less demand for health care and thus less revenue for healthcare businesses, fewer jobs in the sector, etc... Whenever we talk about cost savings, we're really talking about reallocating capital. Saving money on healthcare means taking money away from the healthcare industry so that it can be used elsewhere. This is one of the reasons we're having the whole debate about changing the compensation system in healthcare away from pay for services to a more pay for results model. Take the following example; right now it's far more financially lucrative to put someone on a diabetes maintenance plan (insulin, test supplies, etc...) for their whole life then it is to cure them. That needs to change.
I am not a scientist or especially not a climatologist, therefore my knowledge is very limited on each side of the issue of climate change so I ask these questions in all sincerity: 1) What happened to "global warming"? 2) Why is a mean global temperature rise of about 1 degree over a lengthy period a problem? 3) What happened to the ozone hole over the south pole? 4) What about scientific studies showing that, overall, there's an increase of ice in Antartica? 5) What happened to all the scientific evidence during the 70's predicting global cooling?
Such a well thought out critique of the overwhelming data that seems to mislead 98% of the world's climatologists over and over again. For those who want to take a gander at some of the data, check it out at: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/ Of course there's much more data from many different angles that reinforces the ncdc data, which is why the Royal Society and the health care systems of the world are adapting to the changes that are already occurring and are trying to plan for the inevitable changes that lie ahead. By the way, you might check out the seed companies and see whether they think climate change is bunk or whether they are introducing varieties that are adapted to the changes that have already occurred and will continue to happen.
Thank you for highlighting this issue, and for including the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which has been out front on so many issues of late in terms of preparing for our potentially very rocky road of a future. Most of the articles in their journal are subscription only, but abstracts are free, and they usually feature a really good article whose entire text is free. For the issue you highlight, here is a link to that excellent free download article: http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/369/1942/1762.full