Experts discuss global health effects of climate change
11 Oct 2010
World-leading experts are gathering at the Karolinska
Institutet in Stockholm today (11 Oct) to discuss the health hazards
associated with climate change.
The symposium is part of the 200-year anniversary celebrations of
Extreme weather phenomena such as heat waves, hurricanes, floods,
drought and forest fires are expected to increase in frequency as
the mean global temperature rises.
These can result in humanitarian disasters, especially in densely
populated areas like the large Asian deltas. Already, an increasing
number of more intense heat waves, such as the one that claimed
30,000 lives in Europe in 2003, and ever-more severe floods are
being observed around the world. On the other hand, fatal
hypothermia, frost-bite and other health effects of low temperatures
will decrease as the winter climate grows milder.
The concentration of harmful particles and ground-level ozone
will be affected by a change in climate. Pollen-producing plants,
such as the strongly allergy-inducing ragweed, might spread to new
areas and the onset of seasonal illness might change.
Exposure to prolonged high temperatures causes health problems
and mortality, particularly among elderly people with cardiovascular
or pulmonary disorders. The risks vary considerably from place to
place depending on how well people (physiologically or
behaviourally) and buildings are adapted to higher exterior and
With today’s more extensive transport networks, infectious agents
and species are spreading more quickly around the globe. Some of
them will thrive in new areas when the climate changes. Malaria
mosquitoes have already been observed at higher altitudes in South
America and Asia, and ticks are appearing at more northerly
latitudes in Sweden.
The first ever outbreak in Europe of tropical dengue fever was
reported recently. Climate change also brings a greater risk of
water and food-borne infections and of new diseases, such as
vibriosis in Sweden.