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The Global Health Threat Of Climate Change

1516 words - 7 pages

Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Effects of climate change on health will affect most populations in the next decades and put the lives and wellbeing of billions of people at increased risk. During this century, earth's average surface temperature rises are likely to exceed the safe threshold of 2°C above preindustrial average temperature. Rises will be greater at higher latitudes, with medium-risk scenarios predicting 2-3°C rises by 2090 and 4-5°C rises in northern Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. With this current situation, the whole of U.K. population is at risk considering the changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable ...view middle of the document...

The same risk factors account for more than three fourths of deaths from ischemic and hypertensive heart disease.

The Shift of affairs from national level to global status is influencing health challenges. On top of domestic problems, all countries must now deal with the international treat of transferring health risk. These new challenges are demanding forms of international cooperation, which, if developed, may also help to reconcile general national self-interest with international mutual interest.

Economic globalization has been the fundamental driving force behind the overall process of globalization over the last two decades. It has been characterized both by a dramatic growth in the volume of cross-border flows and by major changes in their nature. International trade has grown at an accelerating pace - nearly 8.6% per year (Bull World Health Organ vol.79 no.9 Genebra 2001).

We cannot underestimate the implications of these changes for health. In addition to their own domestic problems, all countries must now deal with the international transfer of risks. The most obvious case of the blurring of health frontiers is the transmission of communicable diseases. Again, this is not a new phenomenon per se. The first documented case of a transnational epidemic was the Athenian plague of 430 b.c.7 The Black Death of 1347, which killed one-third of the European population, was the direct result of international trade. In the sixteenth century the conquest of the mighty Aztec and Inca empires was an early example of involuntary microbiological warfare through the introduction of smallpox. More recently, the global spread of the influenza pandemic of the early twentieth century accounted for far more casualties than did WorldWar I.

What is new is the scale of what has been called "microbial traffic." The explosive

increase of world travel produces thousands of potentially infectious contacts daily, and jet planes have made even the longest intercontinental flights briefer than the incubation period of any human infectious disease. Thus, a Peruvian outbreak of cholera turned into a continental epidemic in a matter of days in the early 1990s. Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis have traveled from detention centers in Russia to Paris in just a few hours. Likewise, the Asian "tiger mosquito," a potential vector for dengue fever virus, was introduced into the United States in the 1980s in a shipment of used rubber tires imported from northern Asia.

These are all examples of what is called "our new biocultural era, generated by radical changes in our environment and lifestyles" according to "Man and Microbes" author Arno Karlen. Indeed, to make matters more complex, it is not only people, microbes, and material goods that travel from one country to another; it is also ideas and lifestyles. Smoking provides a clear example. Whenever a legal or regulatory battle against the tobacco companies is won in a State, everyone rejoices for the...

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