Climate change, industry and society
||This article has an unclear citation style. (December 2012)|
This article is about climate change, industry and society.
- 1 Systems and sectors
- 1.1 Water resources
- 1.2 Health
- 1.2.1 Malnutrition
- 1.2.2 Extreme events
- 1.2.3 Spread of disease
- 1.2.4 Ground-level ozone
- 1.2.5 Cold-waves
- 1.2.6 Direct effects of temperature rise
- 1.2.7 Children
- 1.2.8 Limits of human survivability
- 2 Migration
- 3 Security and conflict
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
Systems and sectors
||It has been suggested that this article be merged into Effects of climate change on humans. (Discuss) Proposed since February 2013.|
In a literature assessment, Kundzewicz et al. (2007:175) concluded, with high confidence, that:
- the negative impacts of climate change on freshwater systems outweigh the benefits. All of the regions assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, North America, Polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic), and small islands) showed an overall net negative impact of climate change on water resources and freshwater ecosystems.
- Semi-arid and arid areas are particularly exposed to the impacts of climate change on freshwater. With very high confidence, it was judged that many of these areas, e.g., the Mediterranean basin, western USA, southern Africa, and north-eastern Brazil, would suffer a decrease in water resources due to climate change.
Sea level rise is projected to increase salt-water intrusion into groundwater in some regions, affecting drinking water and agriculture in coastal zones. Increased evaporation will reduce the effectiveness of reservoirs. Increased extreme weather means more water falls on hardened ground unable to absorb it, leading to flash floods instead of a replenishment of soil moisture or groundwater levels. In some areas, shrinking glaciers threaten the water supply. The continued retreat of glaciers will have a number of different effects. In areas that are heavily dependent on water runoff from glaciers that melt during the warmer summer months, a continuation of the current retreat will eventually deplete the glacial ice and substantially reduce or eliminate runoff. A reduction in runoff will affect the ability to irrigate crops and will reduce summer stream flows necessary to keep dams and reservoirs replenished. This situation is particularly acute for irrigation in South America, where numerous artificial lakes are filled almost exclusively by glacial melt. Central Asian countries have also been historically dependent on the seasonal glacier melt water for irrigation and drinking supplies. In Norway, the Alps, and the Pacific Northwest of North America, glacier runoff is important for hydropower. Higher temperatures will also increase the demand for water for the purposes of cooling and hydration.
In the Sahel, there has been an unusually wet period from 1950 until 1970, followed by extremely dry years from 1970 to 1990. From 1990 until 2004 rainfall returned to levels slightly below the 1898–1993 average, but year-to-year variability was high.
Human beings are exposed to climate change through changing weather patterns (temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise and more frequent extreme events) and indirectly through changes in water, air and food quality and changes in ecosystems, agriculture, industry and settlements and the economy (Confalonieri et al., 2007:393). According to a literature assessment by Confalonieri et al. (2007:393), the effects of climate change to date have been small, but are projected to progressively increase in all countries and regions.
With high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007:393) concluded that climate change had altered the seasonal distribution of some allergenic pollen species. With medium confidence, they concluded that climate change had:
- altered the distribution of some infectious disease vectors
- increased heatwave-related deaths
With high confidence, IPCC (2007d:48) projected that:
- the health status of millions of people would be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events; increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases; increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to high concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases.
- climate change would bring some benefits in temperate areas, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure, and some mixed effects such as changes in range and transmission potential of malaria in Africa. Overall, IPCC (2007d:48) expected that benefits would be outweighed by negative health effects of rising temperatures, especially in developing countries.
With very high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007:393) concluded that economic development was an important component of possible adaptation to climate change. Economic growth on its own, however, was not judged to be sufficient to insulate the world's population from disease and injury due to climate change. The manner in which economic growth occurs was judged to be important, along with how the benefits of growth are distributed in society. Examples of other important factors in determining the health of populations were listed as: education, health care, and public-health infrastructure.
With high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) projected that malnutrition would increase due to climate change. This link is associated with climate variability and change. Drought reduces variety in diets and reduces overall consumption. This can lead to micronutrient deficiencies.
The World Health Organization (Campbell-Lendrum et al., 2003) conducted a regional and global assessment to quantify the amount of premature morbidity and mortality due to a range of factors, including climate change. Projections were made over future climate change impacts. Limited adjustments for adaptation were included in the estimates based on these projections. Projected relative risks attributable to climate change in 2030 varied by health outcome and region. Risks were largely negative, with most of the projected disease burden due to increases in diarrhoeal disease and malnutrition. These increases were primarily in low-income populations already experiencing a large burden of disease.
With high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) projected that climate change would increase the number of people suffering from death, disease and injury from heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts.
- Floods and weather disasters
Floods are low-probability, high-impact events that can overwhelm physical infrastructure and human communities. Confalonieri et al. (2007) reported that major storm and flood disasters have occurred in the last two decades.
The impacts of weather disasters is considerable and unequally distributed. For example, natural disasters have been shown to result in increased domestic violence against - and post-traumatic stress disorders in – women. In terms of deaths and populations affected, floods and tropical cyclones have the greatest impact in South Asia and Latin America. Vulnerability to weather disasters depends on the attributes of the person at risk, including where they live and their age, as well as other social and environmental factors. High-density populations in low-lying coastal regions experience a high health burden from weather disasters.
Hot days, hot nights and heatwaves have become more frequent. Heatwaves are associated with marked short-term increases in mortality. For example, in August 2003, a heatwave in Europe resulted in excess mortality in the range of 35,000 total deaths.
Heat-related morbidity and mortality is projected to increase. The health burden could be relatively small for moderate heatwaves in temperate regions, because deaths occur primarily in susceptible persons.
The effects of drought on health include deaths, malnutrition, infectious diseases and respiratory diseases. Countries within the "Meningitis Belt" in semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa experience the highest endemicity and epidemic frequency of meningococcal meningitis in Africa, although other areas in the Rift Valley, the Great Lakes, and southern Africa are also affected. The spatial distribution, intensity, and seasonality of meningococcal (epidemic) meningitis appear to be strongly linked to climate and environmental factors, particularly drought. The cause of this link is not fully understood.
In some regions, changes in temperature and precipitation are projected to increase the frequency and severity of fire events. Forest and bush fires cause burns, damage from smoke inhalation and other injuries.
Spread of disease
Global warming may extend the favourable zones for vectors conveying infectious disease such as dengue fever, West Nile virus, and malaria. In poorer countries, this may simply lead to higher incidence of such diseases. In richer countries, where such diseases have been eliminated or kept in check by vaccination, draining swamps and using pesticides, the consequences may be felt more in economic than health terms. The World Health Organization (WHO) says global warming could lead to a major increase in insect-borne diseases in Britain and Europe, as northern Europe becomes warmer, ticks—which carry encephalitis and lyme disease—and sandflies—which carry visceral leishmaniasis—are likely to move in. However, malaria has always been a common threat in European past, with the last epidemic occurring in the Netherlands during the 1950s. In the United States, Malaria has been endemic in as much as 36 states (including Washington, North Dakota, Michigan and New York) until the 1940s. By 1949, the country was declared free of malaria as a significant public health problem, after more than 4,650,000 house DDT spray applications had been made.
The World Health Organisation estimates 150,000 deaths annually "as a result of climate change", of which half are in the Asia-Pacific region. In April 2008, it reported that, as a result of increased temperatures, the number of malaria infections is expected to increase in the highland areas of Papua New Guinea.
Infectious disease vectors
With high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) projected that climate change would continue to change the range of some infectious disease vectors. Vector-borne diseases (VBD) are infections transmitted by the bite of infected arthropod species, such as mosquitoes, ticks, triatomine bugs, sandflies, and blackflies. There is some evidence of climate-change-related shifts in the distribution of tick vectors of disease, of some (non-malarial) mosquito vectors in Europe and North America. Climate change has also been implicated in changes in the breeding and migration dates of several bird species. Several species of wild bird can act as carriers of human pathogens as well as of vectors of infectious agents.
With low confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) concluded that climate change would increase the number of people at risk of dengue. Dengue is the world's most important vector-borne viral disease. Several studies have reported associations between dengue and climate, however, these associations are not entirely consistent.
The spatial distribution, intensity of transmission, and seasonalty of malaria is influenced by climate in Sub-saharan Africa. Rainfall can be a limiting factor for mosquito populations and there is some evidence of reductions in transmission associated with decadal decreases in rainfall. The effects of observed climate change on the geographical distribution of malaria and its transmission intensity in highland regions remains controversial. There is no clear evidence that malaria has been affected by climate change in South America or in continental regions of the Russian Federation. There is still much uncertainty about the potential impact of climate change on malaria at local and global scales.
||This paragraph lends undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (May 2010)|
A paper by researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Florida published in Nature in May 2010 concluded that claims that a warming climate has led to more widespread disease and death due to malaria are largely at odds with the evidence, and that "predictions of an intensification of malaria in a warmer world, based on extrapolated empirical relationships or biological mechanisms, must be set against a context of a century of warming that has seen marked global declines in the disease and a substantial weakening of the global correlation between malaria endemicity and climate."
Other infectious diseases
With very high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) concluded that climate change would have mixed effects on malaria. Malaria is a complex disease to model and all of the published models assessed by Confalonieri et al. (2007) had limited parametrization of some key factors. Parametrization is used in climate models because the resolution of models is insufficient to resolve some physical processes. Given this limitation, models assessed by Confalonieri et al. (2007) projected that, particularly in Africa, climate change would be associated with geographical expansions of the areas suitable for Plasmodium falciparum malaria in some regions, and contractions in other regions. Projections also suggested that some regions would experience a longer season of transmission. Projections suggested expansions in vector species that carry dengue for parts of Australia and New Zealand.
With medium confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) concluded that climate change would increase the burden of diarrhoeal diseases. Childhood mortality due to diarrhoea in low-income countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, remains high. This is despite improvements in care. Several studies have shown that transmission of enteric pathogens is higher during the rainy season. Some studies have found that higher temperature was strongly associated with increased episodes of diarrhoeal disease in adults and children in Peru. Campbell-Lendrum et al. (2003) projected that climate change would increase the burden of diarrhoeal diseases in low-income regions by approximately 2 to 5% in 2020.
With high confidence, Confalonieri et al. (2007) projected that climate change would increase cardio-respiratory morbidity and mortality associated with ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is both naturally occurring and is the primary constituent of urban smog. Ozone in smog is formed through chemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides and other compounds. The reaction is a photochemical reaction, meaning that it involves electromagnetic radiation, and occurs in the presence of bright sunshine and high temperatures. Exposure to elevated concentrations of ozone is associated with increased hospital admissions for pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, allergic rhinitis and other respiratory diseases, and with premature mortality.
Background levels of ground-level ozone have risen since pre-industrial times because of increasing emissions of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. This trend is expected to continue into the mid-21st century.
Cold-waves continue to be a problem in northern latitudes, where very low temperatures can be reached in a few hours and extend over long periods. Reductions in cold-deaths due to climate change are projected to be greater than increases in heat-related deaths in the UK.
Direct effects of temperature rise
The most direct effect of climate change on humans might be the impacts of hotter temperatures themselves. Extreme high temperatures increase the number of people who die on a given day for many reasons: people with heart problems are vulnerable because one's cardiovascular system must work harder to keep the body cool during hot weather, heat exhaustion, and some respiratory problems increase. Global warming could mean more cardiovascular diseases, doctors warn. Higher air temperature also increase the concentration of ozone at ground level. In the lower atmosphere, ozone is a harmful pollutant. It damages lung tissues and causes problems for people with asthma and other lung diseases.
Rising temperatures have two opposing direct effects on mortality: higher temperatures in winter reduce deaths from cold; higher temperatures in summer increase heat-related deaths. The net local impact of these two direct effects depends on the current climate in a particular area. Palutikof et al. (1996) calculate that in England and Wales for a 1 °C temperature rise the reduced deaths from cold outweigh the increased deaths from heat, resulting in a reduction in annual average mortality of 7000, while Keatinge et al. (2000) "suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short term declines in cold related mortalities." Cold-related deaths are far more numerous than heat-related deaths in the United States, Europe, and almost all countries outside the tropics. During 1979–1999, a total of 3,829 deaths in the United States were associated with excessive heat due to weather conditions, while in that same period a total of 13,970 deaths were attributed to hypothermia. In Europe, mean annual heat related mortalities are 304 in north Finland, 445 in Athens, and 40 in London, while cold related mortalities are 2457, 2533, and 3129 respectively. According to Keatinge et al. (2000), "populations in Europe have adjusted successfully to mean summer temperatures ranging from 13.5°C to 24.1°C, and can be expected to adjust to global warming predicted for the next half century with little sustained increase in heat related mortality."
A government report shows decreased mortality due to recent warming and predicts increased mortality due to future warming in the United Kingdom. The 2003 European heat wave killed 22,000–35,000 people, based on normal mortality rates. Peter A. Stott from the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research estimated with 90% confidence that past human influence on climate was responsible for at least half the risk of the 2003 European summer heat-wave.
In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the policy statement Global Climate Change and Children's Health:
- Anticipated direct health consequences of climate change include injury and death from extreme weather events and natural disasters, increases in climate-sensitive infectious diseases, increases in air pollution–related illness, and more heat-related, potentially fatal, illness. Within all of these categories, children have increased vulnerability compared with other groups.
On 2008-04-29, a UNICEF UK Report found that global warming is already reducing the quality of the world's most vulnerable children's lives and making it more difficult to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. Global warming will reduce access to clean water and food supplies, particularly in Africa and Asia. Disasters, violence and disease are expected to be more frequent and intense, making the future of the world's poorest children more bleak.
Limits of human survivability
Some areas of the world would start to surpass the wet-bulb temperature limit of human survivability with global warming of about 6.7 °C (12 °F) while a warming of 11.7 °C (21 °F) would put half of the world's population in an uninhabitable environment. In practice, the survivable limit of global warming in these areas is probably lower and in practice, some areas may experience lethal wet-bulb temperatures even earlier, because this study conservatively projected the survival limit for persons who are out of the sun, in gale-force winds, doused with water, wearing no clothing, and not working.
The combined effects of global warming may have particularly harsh effects on people and countries without the resources to mitigate those effects. This may slow economic development and poverty reduction, and make it harder to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In October 2004 the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, a coalition of development and environment NGOs, issued a report Up in Smoke on the effects of climate change on development. This report, and the July 2005 report Africa - Up in Smoke? predicted increased hunger and disease due to decreased rainfall and severe weather events, particularly in Africa. These are likely to have severe impacts on development for those affected.
In a literature assessment, Yohe et al. (2007:813) concluded that climate change would very likely make it more difficult for nations to achieve the MDGs for the middle of the century. In the short-term, it was judged very likely that climate change (as attributed with high confidence to human activities) would not be a significant extra impediment to nations reaching their 2015 Millennium Development Targets.
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Some Pacific Ocean island nations, such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Maldives, are concerned about the possibility of an eventual evacuation, as flood defense may become economically unviable for them, creating climate refugees. Tuvalu already has an ad hoc agreement with New Zealand to allow phased relocation.
- migrations in areas impacted by climate change are not one-way and permanent
- the reasons for migration are often multiple and complex, and thus do not relate straightforwardly to climate change
- there are few reliable censuses or surveys in many parts of the world on which to base such estimates
- there is a lack of agreement on what an environmental migrant is.
In the 1990s a variety of estimates placed the number of environmental refugees at around 25 million. (Environmental refugees are not included in the official definition of refugees, which only includes migrants fleeing persecution.) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which advises the world’s governments under the auspices of the UN, estimated that 150 million environmental refugees will exist in the year 2050, due mainly to the effects of coastal flooding, shoreline erosion and agricultural disruption (150 million means 1.5% of 2050’s predicted 10 billion world population).
Security and conflict
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An argument can be made that rising ethnic conflicts may be linked to competition over natural resources that are increasingly scarce as a result of climate change (Wilbanks et al., 2007:365). According to Wilbanks et al. (2007:365), other factors need to be taken into account. It was suggested that major environmentally-influenced conflicts in Africa have more to do with the relative abundance of resources, e.g., oil and diamonds, than with resource scarcity. On this basis, Wilbanks et al. (2007:365) suggested that predictions of future conflicts due climate change should be viewed with caution.
Schneider et al. (2007:787) assessed the literature on key vulnerabilities to climate change. With high confidence, they predicted that stresses such as increased drought, water shortages, and riverine and coastal flooding would affect many local and regional populations. With medium confidence, it was predicted that these stresses would lead, in some cases, to relocation within or between countries. This might have the effect of exacerbating conflicts, and possibly impose migration pressures.
The Military Advisory Board, a panel of retired U.S. generals and admirals released a report entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change." The report predicts that global warming will have security implications, in particular serving as a "threat multiplier" in already volatile regions. Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett argues that "An unstable climate will exacerbate some of the core drivers of conflict, such as migratory pressures and competition for resources." And several weeks earlier, U.S. Senators Chuck Hagel (R-NB) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill in the U.S. Congress that would require federal intelligence agencies to collaborate on a National Intelligence Estimate to evaluate the security challenges presented by climate change.
In November 2007, two Washington think tanks, the established Center for Strategic and International Studies and the newer Center for a New American Security, published a report analysing the worldwide security implications of three different global warming scenarios. The report considers three different scenarios, two over a roughly 30 year perspective and one covering the time up to 2100. Its general results conclude that flooding "...has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. Armed conflict between nations over resources, such as the Nile and its tributaries, is likely..." and that "Perhaps the most worrisome problems associated with rising temperatures and sea levels are from large-scale migrations of people — both inside nations and across existing national borders."
A 2009 study questions the assumption that rising temperatures and violence are linked. Richard Tol and Sebastian Wagner collected data on climate and conflict in Europe between the years 1000 and 2000. They concluded that until the mid-18th century, there was a significant negative correlation between the number of conflicts and average temperature, but after that no statistically meaningful relationship can be observed. Tol and Wagner argue that the relationship between warfare and colder weather disappears around the time of the industrial revolution, when agriculture and transport improve dramatically. The Economist suggests that the lesson of their research is that climate-induced conflict can be minimised by continuing the process of crop improvement.
A study by Zhang et al. (2009) used paleoclimate data (paleoclimate is the study of past climate) to examine large scale effects of climate change on the outbreak of war and population decline in the preindustrial era. According to the study, long-term fluctuations of war frequency and population changes have followed cycles of temperature change.
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