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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Global Warming as Public Health Threat

The Washington Post writes about the EPA's report on the impact of global warming and the various health risks it poses to individuals.  Andrew Revkin states,

The Bush administration, bowing to a court order, has released a fresh summary of federal and independent research pointing to large, and mainly harmful, impact of human-caused global warming in the United States. The report, released Thursday, is online at climatescience.gov, along with a new report updating the administration’s priorities for climate research.

Most of the findings, like the spread of warmth-loving pests and the inevitable loss of low-lying lands to rising seas, are not new. But the report included new projections of how the poor, elderly and communities with lagging public-health and public-works systems will face outsize health risks from warming.

Among the report’s new conclusions on health: “An increased frequency and severity of heat waves is expected, leading to more illness and death, particularly among the young, elderly, frail and poor.” It added that deaths from cold would decline, but said uncertainties on both projections made it impossible to characterize the overall risk.

It gave high odds (essentially a two out of three chance) that Lyme disease and West Nile virus would have expanded ranges because of warming. The report gave the same odds that some food- and water-borne diseases would also increase among susceptible populations, but said “major human epidemics” were unlikely as long as public-health systems remained effective. . . .

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