drought, climate change

Report on Health Impacts of Climate Change Draws Strong Response

September 17, 2009 04:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
As leaders prepare for the U.N. climate conference, a new report says climate change will cause death and illness in poor countries, prompting calls for global leaders to take action.

Tension Builds as Copenhagen Approaches

A review performed earlier this year by The Lancet and University College London found that due to climate change, certain infectious diseases will likely be transmitted more easily, clean water and food supplies will be reduced and heat-related deaths "in temperate regions" will increase, according to Richard Black for the BBC. This week, 18 professional medical organizations around the world warned that if the issue is not aggressively dealt with in Copenhagen this December, a "global health catastrophe" will result, and "people in poor tropical nations will suffer the worst impacts."

Following the plea, a group of renowned climate scientists joined the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other "recognized climate luminaries" in signing "an open letter demanding global leaders take bolder action against climate change," Xinhua News Agency reports. Saleemul Huq, one of the signatories, said, "[A] 40 percent reduction [by 2020] in emissions is the very least required to provide a better chance of avoiding devastation for these countries and communities."

Meanwhile, the world's major carbon emitters are meeting today in Washington, beginning a full week "of high-level and high stakes talks on climate change" that moves to New York and Pittsburgh next week. According to Karin Zeitvogel of Agence France-Presse, the meetings are Washington's attempt "to resume a leadership role on climate change," following a warning issued by U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon for world leaders to take swift action on climate change.

Background: Drought in Africa

Drought and heat-related impacts of climate change are already evident in parts of Africa and Asia. Writing for AFP earlier this month, Otto Bakano discussed the "sweeping drought across East Africa" that has resulted in the risk of starvation for millions of people and "loss of livelihood" in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The region is reliant on "small scale subsistence farming," which makes climate change even more devastating there. The government response has "been erratic and band-aid," and humanitarian aid is gone as soon as rain falls again, Bakano wrote.

Opinion & Analysis: Aid for countries dealing with climate change

Leading aid efforts in pastoral south central Somalia, Denise Brown of the U.N. World Food Program tells the BBC, "The situation is only getting worse." Due to the fact that Somalis are almost constantly on the move to escape militant groups, it is difficult for aid organizations to keep up and respond quickly. "People flee conflict and they run into a drought situation." When asked what must happen next, Brown says an international humanitarian response is necessary for stability.

An editorial published in The Economist in May questions whether governments will wisely spend money for climate change response. Citing reports from the Global Humanitarian Forum, Kofi Annan's think-tank, and other groups, the editorial suggests that governments in some countries, such as in South Asia, "have missed so many obvious tricks" that might've prevented climate-related catastrophes.

Reference: Guide to Global Warming and Climate Change

The global warming debate has left the public struggling to piece together information gleaned from television, the Internet and politicians. FindingDulcinea's Web Guide to Global Warming and Climate Change provides a basic introduction to the topic, as well as links to advanced scientific research, and relevant news and analysis.

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