Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP peopleandplanet.net
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Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP
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health and pollution > factfile > climate change and disease

Climate change and disease

Posted: 01 Aug 2004

Changes in climate are likely to affect the incidence of diseases such as malaria, dengue and schistosomiasis by extending the range of their vector insects. A temperature rise of 1-2 degrees centigrade could result in an increase of the population at risk of contracting dengue by several hundred million, with 20,000-30,000 more dengue deaths a year by 2050.

  • By 2100, climate change could have increased substantially the proportion of the world�s population living in potential malaria transmission zones. A global mean temperature rise of 3� Celsius by 2100 would double the epidemic potential of mosquito populations in tropical regions and increase it in temperate regions more than 10 times.

  • Irrespective of climate change effects, if current trends in greenhouse gas emission continue, some scientists believe there could be 700,000 extra avoidable deaths annually because of additional exposure to atmospheric particulate matter produced by the burning of fossil fuels, with 80 per cent of these deaths occurring in developing countries.

  • By 2050, many cities could be experiencing several thousand extra heat-related deaths annually, irrespective of any increase due to population growth.

  • Additional extreme weather events, such as floods, storms and droughts could result in greater risk of death, injury and starvation and increased incidence of psychological and social disorders.

  • Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to atmospheric ozone depletion could lead to an increase in skin cancers, cataracts and possibly suppression of the body�s immune system.

  • Sea level rise could result in displacement, loss of agricultural land and some fisheries, freshwater salinisation and social disruption, all of which could affect health status.

  • The El Ni�o cycle, which may be affected by global warming, is associated with increased risks of some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, dengue and Rift Valley fever. Malaria transmission is particularly sensitive to weather conditions. In dry climates, heavy rainfall can create puddles that provide good breeding conditions for mosquitoes. In very humid climates, droughts may turn rivers into strings of pools, preferred breeding sites of other types of mosquito.

    See Emerging diseases in a warmer world

    Health Impacts of Climate Change, Greenpeace.

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