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  • Experts: climate change affects public health

    June 8, 2012
    by Davide Salviati

    Desertification (Copyright Liceoberchet)

    According to a new study by a group of European public health experts , climate change could alter patterns of physical activity and food availability, and in some cases bring direct physical hurt.  Slight temperature increases could also change disease distribution in colder regions and make hotter regions less hospitable to humans.

    “Certain subgroups are at more risk—mainly the young, the old, and the poor,” says Peter Byass, director of the Umea Centre for Global Health Research (UCGHR) in Sweden. “The middle age and wealthy will be better off. It’s a crude way of looking at it, but it’s not so far off the mark.”

    That means more prevalence of diseases that affect the poor, such as malaria and dengue fever, and heat stroke in drought-afflicted areas.

    For years, scientists have warned about more extreme hurricanes and weather patterns, but until recently, not much emphasis was put on less noticeable changes.

    “I don’t think there’s a big gang of global health experts saying climate change is unimportant,” says Peter Byass. “But I don’t think people have been making the connections that need to be made between public health and climate change.”

    “At this point, we might not be able to stop climate change, but we can be a bit prepared as to what the consequences might be,” he says.

    Recently, several people in his field are increasingly worried about. At last year’s “Durban Climate Meeting”, people focused on health issues had their say. The unpredictability of climate change, makes Byass’ and his colleagues’ jobs much harder, he says.

    The UN has been placing more of an emphasis on climate change, with many of its member countries asking the world’s largest carbon producers—China, India, and the United States—to enter legally-binding agreements to reduce emissions.

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