Global warming could do more to hurt your health than simply threaten summertime heat stroke, says a public health physician. Although heat related illnesses and deaths will increase with the temperatures, climate change is expected to also attack human health with dirtier air and water, more flood-related accidents and injuries, threats to food supplies, hundreds of millions of environmental refugees, and stress on and possible collapse of many ecosystems that now purify our air and water.
"When most people think about climate change, they think of heat stress from heat waves," said Cindy Parker, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. "The heat wave in Western Europe in 2003 killed in excess of 30,000 people who wouldn't have died otherwise. With climate change, heat waves will become more severe, and last for longer periods of time."
"Scientists (in the U.S.) haven't done a good job of communicating why climate change is important to regular people," said Parker, who was invited to give a presentation on the health hazards of global warming at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Philadelphia. Parker will speak in a Pardee Keynote Symposium on Sunday, 22 October.
"The other thing that has gotten a lot of media attention is the increased risk of infectious diseases," said Parker. "This is of greater concern to other parts of the world than the United States." That's because the U.S. has good public health systems that can track down infectious diseases, such as malaria, and intervene so they don't spread, she said.
"In my professional opinion, some of the less direct impacts will be much more devastating for us," said Parker.
Hurricane Katrina was a primer on the matter. Global warming will bring bigger storms and hurricanes that will hold more water, according to climate scientists. Katrina showed how the water from a hurricane does far more damage than t
Contact: Ann Cairns
Geological Society of America