Fri, Sep 23, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Global warming brings health, security risks

AGENCIES , CANBERRA AND NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA

Rising world temperatures could cause a significant increase in disease across Asia and Pacific Island nations, leading to conflict and leaving hundreds of millions of people displaced, a new report said yesterday.

Global warming by the year 2100 could also lead to more droughts, floods and typhoons, and increase the incidence of malaria, dengue fever and cholera, the report into the health impact of rising temperatures found.

Compiled by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Australian Conservation Foundation, the country's leading medical and environment groups, the study predicts average temperatures will rise by between 1oC and 6oC by 2100.

"We're not just talking about a longer summer or a shorter ski season," AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal told reporters. "Climate change will damage our health. People will get sick as a direct result. People will die in larger numbers as our earth, our world, our home, heats up."

In Australia, Haikerwal said up to 15,000 people could die each year due to heat stress by 2100, up from about 1,000 a year at present, while dengue fever and other mosquito-borne diseases could spread as far south as Sydney.

Dengue fever in Australia is currently confined to the tropical and sparsely populated far north.

Internationally, higher world temperatures would increase the incidence of violent storms and droughts, and could lead to crop failures which could cause political and social upheaval.

"As stresses increase there is likely to be a shift towards authoritarian governments," the report said. "At the worst case, large-scale state failure and major conflict may generate hundreds of millions of displaced people in the Asia-Pacific region, a widespread collapse of law and numerous abuses of human rights."

It said crop yields were likely to increase in parts of Northern Asia, but would decrease in countries in Southern Asia, where the incidence of floods, droughts, forest fires and tropical cyclones would increase.

The report, entitled Climate Change Health Impacts in Australia; Effects of Dramatic CO2 Emission Reductions, calls on governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions to limit the impact of global warming.

World Health Organization official Hisashi Ogawa also said that regional governments should step up measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but should also boost surveillance of climate change related illnesses.

"Of course we need to reduce the emissions," he said. "But in the meantime, knowing the increase in global temperature, we need to adapt ourselves or our way of living to ... the changing climate [and] weather patterns."

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