Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Action on Health Impacts of Climate Change

Reduction of flood and associated extreme weat...Image via Wikipedia

Adapting to health impacts of climate change: a study of UNFCCC Annex I parties (10 page pdf, A C Lesnikowski, J D Ford, L Berrang-Ford, J A Paterson, M Barrera2 and S J Heymann, Environmental Research Letters, Oct. 31, 2011)

The focus today is on how Annex 1 states (members of the OECD and former USSR) are preparing for impacts expected from climate change, viewed as “one of the main challenges facing public health this century”. The majority have taken no action to adapt to health vulnerabilities. Flooding, general extremes, and air quality were recognized as the main threats and extreme cold as the least. Overlooked by many is the vulnerability of their elderly- whose numbers will double over the next few decades at the same time as periods of extreme heat and high pollution increase as a result of climate change.

Key Quotes:

“WHO estimates placed excess annual mortality as a result of climatic change at 141 000 by 2004, 85% of which were child deaths”

“It is groups vulnerable to negative health outcomes today who are most likely to be affected by future climate change….the elderly, children, individuals with pre-existing or chronic conditions, people living in poverty, women, and indigenous groups”

“Annex I nations have a combined population of approximately 1.7 billion people, or 25% of the global population.. These include 28 of the 30 member states of the OECD and several Economies in Transition that are not part of the OECD (Eastern European nations, including the Russian Federation).”

“The countries reporting the highest number of initiatives—the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, and Canada—included over 100 actions. Countries with the lowest number of initiatives (fewer than 25) included Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Slovenia….Fewer than half of the 38 Annex I countries were found to be responding to any one health vulnerability with adaptation-level action”

“Flooding was the most widely recognized vulnerability, with 34 countries making statements recognizing increased risk in a changing climate”

“The least widely recognized health vulnerability was extreme cold—recognized by only Greece, Canada, and Lithuania”

“Concern for vulnerable populations was most frequently tied to extreme heat and air quality”

“Only five countries discussed special accommodations for the elderly in public awareness and outreach programs, despite well recognized vulnerabilities of this group during extreme weather events
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