21 Nov 1997 Larger Public Health Risks Overlooked in the Global Warming Debate
Policy Proposals Seek Solution to Hypothetical Health Risks While Ignoring Real Ones
For Immediate Release
November 21, 1997
Contact: David Ridenour of The National Center for Public Policy Research at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected]
The public health “big picture” has largely been overlooked in the current global warming debate, increasing the likelihood that global climate policies will be adopted that either miss good opportunities to advance public health or inadvertently increase public health risks, says a respected science organization.
Researchers have theorized that global warming, if it occurs, could increase human mortality by increasing the incidence of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other parasites. But a study released by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), “Global Climate Change and Human Health,” argues that such diseases will be serious public health problems regardless of whether or not global warming occurs. What’s more, these diseases can be prevented – and by more effective means than reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The study also cautions against government action designed solely to counter the hypothetical health risks associated with global warming that could inadvertently exacerbate very real health risks.
Among the American Council on Science and Health’s key findings:
- Malaria will be a serious public health concern regardless of whether or not the climate warms. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 500 million cases of malaria each year. It has been hypothesized that a three degree Celsius average warming of the planet would only increase the incidence of this disease by 10-16%. Therefore, public policies designed to stabilize global climate at best would only prevent a small percentage of malaria cases while doing nothing for the 500 million others afflicted by malaria each year.
- Restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions to prevent malaria, yellow fever and dengue could prove counterproductive. According the ACSH study, “Wealth tends to bring health and longevity; poverty tends to bring infectious disease, high infant and childhood mortality, and short life spans.” Because the economic costs of sharp controls on greenhouse gas emissions would exacerbate poverty, public health would be placed at greater risk.
- There are less costly, more effective means of preventing malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases than restricting greenhouse gas emissions. Among these: Increased use of vaccinations, judicious use of pesticides and biological control methods, greater education of health care workers, increased use of mosquito and fly screens, and greater public education.
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address as yet unproved health risks could divert limited resources from addressing real, proved risks. Spending money to reduce emissions necessarily means that these resources are not available for measures that we know for certain can reduce disease such as pest control, vaccinations, water purification, greater nutrition, and better sanitation.
For more information on the study, contact the American Council on Science and Health at 212/362-7044. For more information about other aspects of global climate change contact David Ridenour of The National Center for Public Policy Research at (202) 507-6398 or e-mail him at [email protected].