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Global Warming and Your Health

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  • Pat Neuman
    Feb 3, 2008 Jim DiPeso A Stanford University environmental engineering professor has released results of a study showing a cause-and-effect relationship
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2008
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      Feb 3, 2008
      Jim DiPeso

      A Stanford University environmental engineering professor has released
      results of a study showing a cause-and-effect relationship between
      higher levels of carbon dioxide and higher levels of harmful air

      By itself, the study is noteworthy for providing more empirical
      evidence that loading carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases
      into the atmosphere is risky behavior. More broadly, the study is
      another important reminder that climate change has more immediate
      relevance for human society than the fate of polar bears or distant
      coral reefs. Not that polar bears and coral reefs are unimportant.
      Protecting them is an obligation in both moral and practical terms.

      But for people who find global warming too abstract and far removed
      from everyday life, bears and reefs are not compelling reasons to act.
      As social activist Van Jones has pointed out, the movement to arrest
      global warming needs more than one entry point if it is to become as
      broad and deep as it needs to be.

      One of those entry points is health. There is no person alive who is
      unconcerned about health, for themselves and for loved ones. Make a
      convincing case that global warming will have serious consequences for
      human health, and that moves the conversation a step ahead in
      persuading people and their political leaders to do something about
      the problem.

      Back to the Stanford study. Low-level ozone is a respiratory hazard
      that forms when hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides from tailpipes and
      other sources react chemically in the presence of heat and strong
      sunlight. Hence the term "photochemical smog." Professor Mark Jacobson
      found a cause-and-effect relationship between increased heat tied to
      carbon dioxide and increased air pollution. Every degree Celsius
      increase in temperature caused by carbon dioxide results in 1,000
      additional deaths in the United States, plus many additional cases of
      respiratory disease, Professor Jacobson estimated.

      Jacobson used a sophisticated model that he has developed and refined
      over the past two decades to estimate how much ozone and particulate
      matter would form as a result of hotter temperatures caused by higher
      levels of atmospheric CO2. Alarmingly, he found that higher
      temperatures caused by CO2 stimulate ozone formation over urban areas.
      In addition, warmer air allows for higher levels of water vapor,
      itself a greenhouse gas which boosts temperatures further and
      increases ozone formation all the more. Also, water vapor enlarges
      airborne particulates, allowing acidic gases to dissolve inside the
      particles, thus exacerbating their toxicity.

      Air pollution is not the only projected health consequence of global
      warming. Another is heat. The European heat wave of 2003, which killed
      an estimated 35,000 people, vividly and tragically exemplified the
      terrible consequences of prolonged, intense heat waves, especially in
      northern regions not accustomed to them and for people who lack the
      resources to cope.

      Another projected consequence is spread of vector-borne diseases. As
      temperatures climb, the range of disease-carrying mosquitoes will
      expand towards the temperate regions and up slope to higher altitudes.
      Today, nearly half the world's population is in the malaria risk zone.
      Raising global temperatures 2 degrees will add 1 billion people to the
      malaria risk zone, Dr. Larry Brilliant, a public health expert and
      executive director of Google.org, said last year at the National
      Council for Science and Environment's annual John Chafee Memorial Lecture.

      In the developing world, 1.2 billion lack access to clean water and
      more than twice as many lack access to proper sanitation, Brilliant
      reminded his listeners. Climate change is expected to exacerbate
      extremes in the hydrological cycle. Longer droughts and more intense
      floods will mean more water stress and greater exposure to waterborne

      If malaria and other tropical diseases seem irrelevant to richer
      northern nations, consider this: Climate change threatens to combine
      with other factors to raise the risk threshold for the rapid spread of
      communicable diseases. Those factors include the increased speed and
      volume of global commerce, movement of human settlement into cleared
      wildlands that may harbor exotic microorganisms, and livestock
      management practices that increase the likelihood of animal diseases -
      bird flu, for example - jumping the species barrier.

      Countries stressed by the impacts of climate change will be more prone
      to civil unrest and violence. Last year, a report published by a panel
      of retired generals and admirals called climate change a "threat
      multiplier" for international conflict. One things leads to another
      and another.

      Health is a filter for understanding the difficult science of global
      warming as an array of consequences intruding into our homes and
      lives. Health is a linchpin for the interrelated challenges of
      stabilizing the climate, alleviating poverty, and keeping the peace.


      Comment (by Pat N), below:

      People who find global warming too abstract and far removed from
      everyday life aren't paying attention to what's going on. Polar bears,
      reefs, more severe hurricanes, flash floods, powerful tornadoes in the
      Midwest in Jan and Feb of 2008, health factors and many other points
      are all compelling reasons to act.

      Pasadena CA (SPX) Jan 24, 2008
      Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years
      due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers ...


      Boulder CO (SPX) Jan 29, 2008
      A new University of Colorado at Boulder study has shown that ice caps
      on the northern plateau of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic have
      shrunk by more than 50 percent in the last half century as a result of
      warming, and are expected to disappear by the middle of the century.

      Dec. 10, 2007
      The 2007 melt extent on the Greenland ice sheet broke the 2005 summer
      melt record by 10 percent, making it the largest ever recorded there
      since satellite measurements began in 1979,


      Dec 29, 2007 article, where Dr. James Hansen, NASA scientist, said:

      ... "The evidence indicates we've aimed too high -- that the safe
      upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm," he said
      after his presentation. Hansen has reams of paleo-climatic data to
      support his statements (as do other scientists who presented papers at
      the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this
      month). The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees Celsius --
      which is what 450 parts per million implies -- sea levels rose by tens
      of meters, something that would shake the foundations of the human
      enterprise should it happen again.

      Remember This: 350 Parts Per Million


      Need more evidence on rapid global warming?

      Go here:


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