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WHO director general Margaret Chan yesterday urged public officials and scientists to focus more on informing the public about the impacts of climate change on their physical well being and the outbreak of diseases, both locally and regionally.

"Human health is largely neglected, if not entirely ignored, in debates about climate change," said Chan.

Scientists participating in the web based presentation stressed the need to make climate change a clear and present danger to the well-being of everyone, not just those most severely impacted now by water-borne illnesses in flood ravaged Pakistan or facing drought-induced severe malnutrition and starvation in East Africa.

Scarcity of resources, lower crop yields and migrations already exacerbate health issues and the American Thoracic Society this week issued a warning about the impacts of climate change on breathing.

In Rising Temperatures, Rising Health Problems, representatives of the panel reveal findings that  global warming is not only resulting in increased incidences of asthma and other air-borne allergies but also causing cardiovascular problems and an increase in infections due to vector borne diseases.

“We’re now beginning to see some infections and some vector borne diseases in different areas of the world that we’ve never seen before. For example, diseases that have commonly been found within the Mediterranean are now being seen as far north as the Scandinavian countries. We’ve also seen some issues about mold that typically was only found within Mexico and Central America that are now as far north as British Columbia in Canada” UC Davis professor Kent Pinkerton Lun
Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, stressed the importance of localizing the impacts of climate change .

"Most Americans think that climate change is a distant issue," he said. " ... People do not connect the dots between climate change, which is in one part of the brain, and human health, which is in another part of the brain."


Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (for example, more intense and frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air, food quality and quantity, ecosystems, agriculture, and economy. At this early stage the effects are small but are projected to progressively increase in all countries and regions. 2007 report, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Last year, an NRDC studydetermined the health costs from climate change in six cases in the US between 2000 and 2009 exceeded $14 billion.

Christian Teriete, communications director for TckTckTck, stressed the need for "finesse" in informing a public which is not prepared to internalize the connection between a changing climate and health. The strategy, he said, must involve creating messaging which is specific to the particular population, geographically, economically and culturally and also delivered an optimistic, tone with information on tactics and solutions.

...  "We're not going to resolve this huge problem internationally if we don't have a huge shared understanding. We must make the argument that we can do this," said McMichael.

Fortunately, strategies for mitigating climate change also tend to help reduce its impact, according to Leiserowitz. "Many of these exact things we are doing to improve public health also tend to improve the climate. Likewise, the more ways we can move away from fossil-fuel-based energy sources, the more that helps our health at the same time," he said.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Could being with the majority of Dems who (7+ / 0-)

    seem to feel "meh" about Climate Change. Maybe with their help we might stand a chance of changing public opinion back to 2008, when it was perfectly acceptable to scoff at the deniers and champion greenhouse gas reduction.

    Climate Change is not something that should be handled in "moderation".

    The suffering will continue until it is sufficient to mobilize a counterforce sufficient to overwhelm the plutocracy. And no sooner.

    by Words In Action on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 10:45:39 AM PDT

  •  Good to know there are (7+ / 0-)

    knowledgable reality based people working on what CAN be done.

    This is key.

    The strategy, he said, must involve creating messaging which is specific to the particular population, geographically, economically and culturally and also delivered an optimistic, tone with information on tactics and solutions.
    The video is a good example of that. Think I will check out TckTckTck.

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 11:13:26 AM PDT

  •  Climate change will be great for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the business of health care.  New foundations and fundraisers for new diseases.  New treatment drugs for pHarma to find and exploits.  New diagnostic tools for inventors and manufacturers to get rich off.  etc.

  •  I've used health issues... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boatsie, John Crapper many letters.

    The Chicago Tribune reprints a story from US News and World Report on (hack! cough! sneeze!) the respiratory impacts of climate change:
    A group of lung doctors warned Thursday that climate change will likely lead to an increase in the rate and severity of a variety of respiratory diseases.

    "We felt as though the medical community was not understanding how climate change might impact patients and their health," says Kent Pinkerton, director of the Center for Health & the Environment at the University of California-Davis. Pinkerton says the warning came out of a meeting of top climate change scientists and lung doctors that discussed the potential impacts of global warming on patient health.

    "It was an eye opener for us as we began to talk to climatologists and other individuals to find out how climate change can have far-reaching effects," he says. It's not just pollution's impact on air quality that's causing an increasing number of cases of asthma, allergies and chronic pulmonary diseases, according to the document.

    I know a lot of people with asthma.  It's no joke.  Neither is this.  Sent March 17:
    While an uptick in respiratory diseases is already bad news (given that Americans lose millions of work hours and experience more than enough asthma-related misery already), the public health consequences of climate change are only beginning to be understood, and the genuinely scary stuff still isn't attracting media attention.  

    It's not just increased pollen counts ravaging our lungs.  It's disease-carrying insects traveling northward as warmer conditions spread.  It's disruption of monocropped agriculture from extreme weather events; it's trees no longer protected by winter freezes from destructive beetle pests; it's droughts and wildfires; it's the ongoing loss of biodiversity in our planetary environment.  Each of these factors is grim enough when considered in isolation — but the complex jigsaw puzzle that is planetary climate chaos has yet to be assembled in the public imagination.  Will we put all the pieces together before our civilization is rent asunder?  

    Warren Senders

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 04:50:47 PM PDT

  •  Localizing and personalizing the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    message regarding climate change helps.  Another piece of the puzzle is to give the individual the feeling of empowerment regarding the issue.  There is a "spitting in the ocean" reality regarding an individual taking action on climate change.  Unless there is collective action by mass numbers of people working in tandem there will not be an effective impact on the problem.  The key to activating people into action is to give them a realistic collective path to altering the trajectory.  The issue, somehow, needs o go viral and remain that way for an sustained period of time.  I devote my efforts to accomplishing just this task.    

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we need to really think about shit!

    by John Crapper on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 08:34:50 PM PDT

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