The FINANCIAL — Medical experts have warned of a global health catastrophe unless radical cuts are agreed in carbon dioxide emissions at a major UN conference in December. In an exceptional joint appeal published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and The Lancet, they called on governments to act decisively to roll back the threat from global warming.
A new report on climate change and health commissioned by University College London and the Lancet concludes that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century, according to BMJ. The report emphasises not only the immediacy and gravity of this threat but also the directness: although the poorest in the world will be the first affected, none will be spared. Doctors must take a lead in speaking out, say the authors of an open letter – “Politicians must heed health effects of climate change”
Scientists have repeatedly warned climate change could affect health in many ways, ranging from malnutrition caused by drought to the risk of cholera from flooding and the spread of mosquito-borne disease to temperate zones, as AFP reported. “Doctors must take a lead in speaking out,” said the doctors’ letter. “There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these.»Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic.”
December’s UN summit, to be held in Copenhagen, is due to agree a new global climate treaty to supplant the Kyoto Protocol, BBC gives information. But preparatory talks have been plagued by lack of agreement on how much to cut greenhouse gas emissions and how to finance climate protection for the poorest countries.
“There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these,” according to the letter signed by leaders of 18 colleges of medicine and other medical disciplines across the world, the same source report said. “Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic.”
The threat to health is especially evident in poorest countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, as Lancet and University College London report shows. These countries are struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Their poverty and lack of resources, infrastructure, and often governance, greatly increase their vulnerability to the effects of climate change, according to Guardian. Warmer climate can lead to drought, pressure on resources (particularly water), migration, and conflict. The conflict in Darfur is as much about pressure on resources as the desert encroaches as about the internal politics of Sudan.
And the implications for the health of local populations are acute: on the spread and changing patterns of disease, notably water-borne diseases from inadequate and unclean supplies; on maternal and child mortality as basic health services collapse; and on malnutrition where food is scarce, the same source gives information. And population stabilisation will not be achieved if, for want of resources, girls are not educated and contraceptives are unavailable.