November 5, 2009 – Original Source: Irish Times
THE SEVERE health impacts of climate change would “eclipse all known pandemics in the 21st century”, it was claimed yesterday, with even a one degree Celsius rise in average temperatures causing a six-fold increase in mortality among respiratory patients.
As shown by some 10,000 premature deaths in France alone during a heatwave in 2003, “all of the known or predicted impacts of climate change are going to lead to severe health impacts”, according to Josh Karliner, of the Health Care Without Harm network.
“It is impossible to have healthy people on a sick planet”, he said at a joint launch with the Health and Environment Alliance (Heal) of their Prescription for a Healthy Planet, which calls for a “strong, binding treaty in Copenhagen that promotes a healthy climate”.
The World Heath Organisation (WHO) has thrown its weight behind this campaign to persuade governments that there would be “positive benefits”, particularly in terms of people’s health, if they agreed to make deep cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
The WHO’s leading climate expert, Dr Roberto Bertolini, said this would inevitably involve people having to change their behaviour in ways that would benefit their health – “such as reduced use of cars, eating less red meat, and many other examples”.
But he complained that public health “doesn’t come up as strongly as it should in the [climate change] negotiations. By saying there are not only negative considerations or gloomy messages, but also positive benefits, we think it will increase public support”.
Génon Jensen, of Brussels-based Heal, said it was seeking to “mobilise health community to row in behind environmental policies”. In particular, Heal wanted to see health ministers engaged in the climate change issue “because they will have to deal with the mess”.
Mr Karliner, who is based in Washington, said hundreds of doctors and other health professionals in the US had written to President Barack Obama yesterday to “raise a warning about the health impacts of climate change”.