Parts of world becoming impossible to live in, say scientists

  • Nivedita Khandekar, Hindustan Times, Warsaw
  • Updated: Nov 17, 2013 21:39 IST

Several parts across the globe are becoming uninhabitable because of extreme climates, warned climatologists and medical practitioners on the sidelines of the ongoing UN climate change conference on Sunday.

Along with World Health Organisation (WHO) officials and public health activists, they were gathered at the Global Climate and Health Alliance event to discuss the impact of the changing environmental factors on health.

They also stressed the need for using climate services to predict disease outbreak.

Negotiators were warned to look at a rise in global temperatures by 4 degrees Celsius, as against the current agreed level limit of 2 degrees Celsius.

Mark Maslin, professor of climatology at University College (London), said, “It is the wrong politicians that we have. They can put in place policies that can help save the planet but unfortunately we do not have such politicians. So we need to be prepared for the 4 degree Celsius rise and of course, think of measures of adaptation.”

The negotiators at this Conference of Parties (COP19) are working towards thrashing out a new deal in 2015, which would carry enhanced pledges for emission reductions.

Wenjum Ma from China’s Guangdon Provincial Institute of Public Health cited examples from a study conducted across 66 cities, with 44.3 million residents, in his country.

“Both low and high temperatures are associated with increased mortality risk. For instance, plague intensity generally increased in northern China when wetness increased while in southern China, but it generally decreased when wetness increased,” said Wenjum.

China’s adaptation measures for heat wave, include early warning system and monitoring heat related health outcome, he said.

“We also provide for cooling centres at public places such as subways and shopping centres, and especially at community centres for the elderly.”

The impact of the rising heat is already affecting the work conditions in Australia, pointed out Dr Liz Hanna from the Australian National University.

“As the climate warms and we have more hot days, and more extreme days, the economy will be expected to continue. Demands will emerge for people to soldier on. But that will be harmful,” she said.

She drew attention to the fact that human core temperature needed to be 37 degrees Celsius and a variation in core temperature could lead to acute renal failure, cardiovascular problems and muscle fatigue as heart needs to pump more blood to keep the body cool.

Several African countries and Bangladesh also made presentations about adaptation measures to fight climate change.

“Adaptation strategies need to be home-grown. They need to take into account local realities,” said Magaran Bagayoko, regional advisor at the WHO’s regional office for Africa.

“Using climate services to predict the disease outbreak can be a very useful preventive strategy to fight climate change.”

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