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Climate change will hurt people's health: study
www.chinaview.cn 2005-11-02 17:50:45

    LOS ANGELES, Nov.1 (Xinhuanet)-- Climate change is expected to significantly hurt the ecosystem and people's health, and bring huge economic loss in the near future, according to a UN-sponsored study released here on Tuesday.

    The study, entitled "Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecologicaland Economic Dimensions," links infectious diseases such as malaria, West Nile virus, Lyme disease and asthma with the human-induced global climate change. Thus the society must pay more to cover the loss, said the researchers at the Harvard Medical School.

    "We found that impacts of climate change are likely to lead to ramifications that overlap in several areas including our health, our economy and the natural systems on which we depend," said PaulEpstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School who led the study.

    "A comparable event would be the aftermath of flooding, contamination and homelessness witnessed after Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf coast in August. Analysis of the potential ripple effects stemming from an unstable climate shows the need for more sustainable practices to safeguard and insure a healthy future," he said in a statement.

    Global warming and extreme weather will also favor the breedingand range of disease vectors, according to the study that is also sponsored by insurance firm Swiss Re.

    For example, Lyme disease, the most widespread vector-borne disease, is currently increasing in North America as winters warm.

    Mosquitoes responsible for malaria, which currently kills 3,000African children a day, and West Nile virus, which cost 500 million dollars in 1999 to curb the spread, will also expand theirhabitat in a warmer climate, according to the study.

    And ragweed pollen growth, stimulated by increasing levels of carbon dioxide, may be contributing to the rising incidence of asthma, which currently costs the US public health system 18 billion dollars per year.

    Stronger winds will increase the amount of dust in the air fromexpanding deserts, which compounds the effects of air pollutants and smog from the burning of fossil fuels and increases the risks to asthma sufferers.

    Extreme weather events such as heat waves and floods are expected to occur more frequently, and ecosystems such as forests,agriculture, marine habitat and water are under heavier pressure, the study said.

    Charles McNeill, environment programme manager for the UN Development Program, a co-sponsor of the study, pointed out that the loss caused by climate change will fall disproportionately on developing nations.

    "While developed nations are not immune to the impacts of climate change, those populations that are already struggling withmyriad social challenges will bear the greatest brunt of climate change," said Dr. McNeill.

    Large companies must lessen risks by broadening their energy palate from coal and oil to clean alternatives such as wind and solar power, and possibly, nuclear and hydrogen power, the researchers suggested in the study. Enditem

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