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Global Warming: A Dangerous Threat to Human Life

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GLOBAL WARMING: A DANGEROUS THREAT TO HUMAN LIFE

Years of research by the world's scientific community have demonstrated serious risks of Global warming with implications for all aspects of human life, including infectious diseases. From the human standpoint, changes in the environment may trigger human migration, causing disease patterns to shift, crop failures and famine may reduce host resistance to infections while disease transmission may also be enhanced through the scarcity and contamination of potable water sources.

It is impossible to quantify the exact risk posed by climate change. Some health effects of climate change may result from indirect impacts on natural ecosystems. For example, altered climatic conditions can change the habitats of vectors such as mosquitoes or rats and affect the parasites they carry. Changing the abundance and geographic range of carriers and parasites could shift the seasonal occurrence of many infectious diseases and cause them to spread.

Recent scientific evidence indicates that the annual global CO2 emissions (measured as carbon) are about 6 billion tons from fossil fuel combustion and 1 billion from land-use changes (mainly burning and decomposition of forest biomass). Under a business-as- usual future, in which no special efforts are made to avert climate change, annual emissions of carbon would likely continue to increase about threefold by the end of the next century driven by conventional economic development and increasing population. Cumulative emissions would be about 1400 billion tons over that period, and atmospheric concentrations would approach three times pre-industrial levels (IPCC 1996). This would cause global average temperature to rise between 1.4 to 2.9 degrees Centigrade.

Further, in some runaway climate change phenomena, global warming itself would increase the rate of greenhouse gas accumulation, and thus accelerate global warming and it impacts. Examples include; release of methane from a thawing of the arctic tundra and decreased uptake of carbon by a warming of the oceans.

THE DARK FUTURE

If we do not dramatically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, largely carbon dioxide (CO2), which have thus far accumulated in the atmosphere to about 30 percent above pre-industrial levels, global temperatures and climate are likely to change. It is also widely understood that the magnitude of such climate change could unleash other complex physical, ecological, economic and social disruptions that would seriously undermine the well-being and resilience of the natural environment, societies, and human beings for generations to come.

Recent scientific findings confirm that pollutants such as fine particulates, carbon monoxide, ozone (formed by a mix of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in presence of sunlight) can lead to health impacts that include premature mortality and morbidity effects.

Water is a basic necessity and its availability is of paramount importance. Currently, 1.1 billion people do not have access to adequate supplies of safe water and 2.4 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation. With an increased rate of global warming, adjusting to new shortages and/or implementing measures to ensure supply of safe water may be extremely difficult. Water is a core substance used for cooking, dissolution and plain consumption. The infectious disease consequences of contaminated water can be significant. Childhood diarrhea is already a major cause of premature mortality around the globe while epidemics of cholera, typhoid, and similar diseases can also be expected if the quality of water deteriorates.

Currently, 800 million people are malnourished and as the world's population increases, food consumption is expected to double over the next few decades. Increased demands for food have indirectly exacerbated global warming risks. Problems associated with intensifying production on land already in use are

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