Health risks of climate change

On Thursday the 11th of September at 3:30, in the Leacock building of McGill university, I attended a seminar on ” Health risks of climate change ” given by Dr. Kristie Ebi.

She drew a rather critical portrait of the earth situation. In her opinion, even if we stopped emitting greenhouses gases, we still could have 50 years of climates rising to come. Climate changes have many impacts on human health. One particular example she gave was the increasing number of catastrophes such as hurricanes (e.g., Katrina) and major heat waves (like the one that hit Europe in August). The problem also resides in the fact that the cities are not prepared to face such treats. During the major heatwave that hit Chicago, they stored the affected person in refrigerator vans because they had no where to put such a large amount of people. However, she explained that the required changes will not be easy to accomplish. For example, in prevision of sea level rise and future hurricanes, some flood lines have to be moved. This will not please the entrepreneurs nor the owner of the fields who suddenly would find themselves in a flooding zones. Insurance policies will increase.

An another important issue raised in this seminar was the fact the human health is never included in the planing for future development. As a matter of fact, rising temperature affect humans, animals but also pathogens. Epidemics of samonela, malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition and other wonderful infectious vectors will spread further with increased temperature. Furthermore, some solutions to the problem may enable those parasites to access new areas. For example, a plan in China will have a river from the south redirected toward a river in the north. The southern river is contaminated with a pathogen that is currently unable to reach the northern part of the country. For now, it is impossible for the pathogen to move because of the low temperature but with the climate change, it will have access and millions of new people will be subject to infection.

To conclude, it is crucial that the countries prepare for those catastrophes (it was done for the last el nino and the result were impressive) and health should considered when doing so.

5 Responses to “Health risks of climate change”

  1. supernova says:

    Nice synthesis of Ebi’s presentation. Please add your perceptions/ analysis/ critique of the talk.

  2. patagonia says:

    Great summary- health risks associated with climate change is a very interesting topic. I like the example you give about edemics diseases increasing with extreme weather. This point was also discussed in the selected, which also gives an interesting example of an infectious bacteria, Vivrio paraemolytius, that has shown up in Alaska. I had just read about this case in a seperate article which explains that inceased ocean temperatures have allowed this bacteria to survive in oceans off Alaska, where it had historically been too cold for it to survive. This topic overlaps with the seminar I attended on effects of climate change for species and ecosystems in that both stressed that environmental and geographical ranges will shift with climate change, affecting where species, ecosystems, bacteria and pathogens can be found. I find it really interesting the way all these connections can be made and enforce eachother arguments.

  3. supernova says:

    For my critique of the seminar, I found that Dr Ebi was a very energetic presentator with a vast knowledge about her subject. It really is an asset to be able to present exemples of the given problem that are easily understandable even if it is not your field of knowledge.

    However, for a seminar whose topic was health care, i would have expected more solutions linked to prevention of diseases (both from an economical point of view since preventing should cost less then curing and the human health point of view because a healthy population is a population able to solve their problems).The emphasis was more on the actual problems rather then the possible ways of solving them. As she said during her presentation, the health care society as got to get moving. Realising the problem is a step forward but we need the solutions to work the problem out.

  4. shorty says:

    Professor Ebi pointed out a lot of the different health aspects of climate change. All of these do present considerable problems to the earth and its inhabitants, but was it suggested which ones the earth is more susceptible to? Are we more efficient at developing strategies for protecting people from the stronger and ever increasing natural disastors? Furthermore, are some of the suggested solutions causing more problems e.g. would changing flood lines affect the ecosystem in ways that may encourage invasions and bring new pathogens, or weaken the native species that may deter invasive pathogens by competitive exclusion?

    I also don’t notice a comparison between the developing and developed countries. I would think there’d be a difference in the areas affected by crises such as epidemics of disease, and the capacity to withstand these problems. The types of problems encountered would also differ.

  5. guesswho says:

    To answer your question, Shorty, Dr Ebi did talk about some group that are more vulnerable to climate change (old people, young kids, etc.). Even though she didn’t emphasis on the difference between richer and poorer countries, she did mention that the population at risk were also (unfortunately) the one that has the fastest grow rates. She also deplored the cruel lack of funding allowed on research about adaptation methods in the third world.