Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 09 - Climate Change and Health

Climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases - the news is all around us. Some people believe, some people don't. Some people say we are causing it, some people say that it would be happening anyway. But you know what? We don't all have to agree on what is causing it, but we do know that the world is changing. Today, October 15, 2009, is Blog Action Day and this year, we're addressing climate change.

So how does climate change have anything to do with health issues? It has a lot to do with health.

As early as 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that the warmer, wetter weather was bringing more mosquitoes and causing epidemics of malaria in Rwanda and Tanzania. But, how does that affect people in the more northern countries? After all, malaria isn't a problem in countries like Canada or Sweden. That's true, but while we may not have to worry about malaria, the WHO also found that a type of mosquito called the Asian tiger mosquito, were found in the Netherlands. These mosquitoes can carry dengue fever tick-borne encephalitis is popping up in Sweden.

In Sweden, cases of tick-borne encephalitis have risen in direct correlation to warmer winters. Also in Sweden, more ticks carrying Lyme disease than ever have been found across the country. Asian tiger mosquitoes, the type that carry dengue fever, have been reported recently as far north as the Netherlands.

West Nile disease, which can cause death, is being found in northern United States and Canada, places that never saw the disease before the year 2000. Even cholera is making a come back. Traditionally thought of as a disease that strikes in warm disaster zones when floods in the warm areas encouraged the spread cholera. In 1991, for the first time in that century, cholera hit South America. By the time it passed through the continent, more than 10,000 people were dead.

Even if you don't worry about the more dramatic of diseases, climate warming contributes to smog, which can affect people with lung or heart diseases. Smoggy weather may also cause people to exercise less, reducing their healthy lifestyle.

So what do you think? Is this important enough for us to start to make some serious changes?