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Climate Change Is A ‘threat Multiplier’ That Significantly Imperils Public Health, Report Says

Given the health dangers posed by a warming climate, study authors focused on a key question:  How well is the world responding?

In recent years, the ranks of climate change migrants have grown. Twenty-five homes have been abandoned on Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, which is being overtaken by the Gulf of Mexico.

Climate change significantly imperils public health globally, according to a new report that chronicles the many hazards and symptoms already being seen. The authors describe its manifestations as “unequivocal and potentially irreversible.”

Heat waves are striking more people, disease-carrying mosquitoes are spreading and weather disasters are becoming more common, the authors note in the report published Monday by the British medical journal the Lancet. Climate change is a “threat multiplier,” they write, and its blows hit hardest in the most vulnerable communities, where people are suffering from poverty, water scarcity, inadequate housing or other crises.

“We’ve been quite shocked and surprised by some of the results,” said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, a project aimed at examining the links between climate change and public health.

The effort involved 63 researchers from two dozen institutions worldwide, including climate scientists as well as ecologists, geographers, economists, engineers, mathematicians, political scientists and experts who study food, transportation and energy.

The Countdown, as its ticking-clock title suggests, outlines the way humans are adapting — or not — to a rapidly evolving climate. It was announced last year during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Morocco. The project, a synthesis of scientific literature and media reports, tracks 40 indicators of human health, including migration, nutrition and air pollution.

Given the profound health dangers posed by a warming climate, the study’s authors focused on a key question: How well is the world responding?

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,” Watts said. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk . . . The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Hotter global temperatures are exacting a human toll. Although the increase since 2000 may seem slight — about 0.75 degrees Fahrenheit — the planet is not a uniform oven. Local spikes can be dramatic and dangerous. Heat waves, defined as extreme temperatures that persist for at least three days, are on the rise.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of people exposed to heat waves climbed by 125 million vulnerable adults, according to the report. During 2015, the worst year on record, 175 million people suffered through sweltering temperatures.

Watts also cited the rising number of deaths from floods, storms and other weather disasters. Each year between 2007 and 2016, the world saw an average of 300 weather disasters — a 46-per-cent increase from the decade between 1990 and 1999. In the 25 years since 1990, these disasters claimed more than 500,000 lives.

The number of potentially infectious bites from the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which spreads viruses such as dengue fever and Zika, is up 9 per cent over 1950s levels.

And in recent years, the ranks of climate change migrants have grown. Just in the United States, more than 3,500 Alaskans have fled coastal erosion and permafrost melts. Twenty-five homes have been abandoned on Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, which is being overtaken by the Gulf of Mexico. In 2016, its former residents became the first to receive federal funds for a climate change retreat.

“If governments and the global health community do not learn from the past experiences of HIV/AIDS and the recent outbreaks of Ebola and Zika viruses,” the authors warn in the paper, “another slow response will result in an irreversible and unacceptable cost to human health.”

But Monday’s report also finds “glimmers of hope,” Watts said. For example, many countries are moving away from coal-fired power plants, which are a source both of carbon emissions that fuel global warming and pollution that can cause immediate health problems in nearby communities.

After U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement in June that the United States would pull out of the Paris climate accord, the global response to climate change has been heartening, the authors write, “affirming clear political will and ambition to reach the treaty’s targets.” Nicaragua, previously a holdout because it said the treaty was not stringent enough, is set to join the Paris agreement, leaving only Syria and the United States opposed.

Watts and his co-authors note the ways people are trying to cope with the effects of climate change — spending less time outdoors, for example — even as they warn that the world cannot rely on adaptation alone.

“If anybody says we can adapt our way out of this, the answer is, of course you can’t,” he said. “Some of the changes we’re talking about are so enormous, you can’t adapt your way out.

By BEN GUARINO   The Washington Post   BRADY DENNIS   Wed., Nov. 1, 2017
source: thestar.com

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Cold Weather Increases Heart Failure Risk, Says New Study

Dropping temperatures and changes in atmospheric pressure can lead to an increase in the risk of heart failure for elderly people, according to a large-scale study – and more care needs to be taken to counter the effects.

Previous research has shown that changes in the weather can affect the health of vulnerable people – for example, heat waves and cold spells have been shown to increase disease and even lead to death in people from low-income neighborhoods. The new study, led by researchers at Université Laval and Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, reveals the impact of changes in temperature and air pressure on heart failure patients.

“We know that doctors rarely take the weather forecast into account when treating or making recommendations to heart failure patients,” said Prof. Pierre Gosselin, lead author of the study from Universitié Laval in Canada. “So with the extreme differences in temperature due to climate change, we wanted to show how the weather is becoming a more relevant factor. Our study shows that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients.”

Treating heart failure patients is expensive: according to the Institut Canadien d’Information sur la Santé, people over 65 accounted for 78 percent of patients with the most expensive hospitalization costs per diagnosis between 2011 and 2012 in Canada. Of these, the cost of heart failure ranked third and was estimated at CAN$276 million.

In the new study, the team assessed 112,793 people aged 65 years and older that had been diagnosed with heart failure in Quebec between 2001 and 2011. Patients with heart failure were identified in the Quebec Integrated Chronic Disease Surveillance System (QICDSS) database using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The participants were followed for an average of 635 days. During this time, the researchers measured the mean temperature, relative humidity, atmospheric pressure and air pollutants in the surrounding environment and studied the data to see if there was an association.

The results showed a higher risk of hospitalization or death in the winter period of the year (October to April) compared to the summer period (May to September).

The researchers noticed that the risk to experience hospitalization or death of heart failure cause was increased of 0.7 percent for every 1°C decrease in the mean temperature of the previous seven days. They also found that the risk of heart failure incident increased by 4.5 percent for each increase of 1 kPa in atmospheric pressure.

In other words, a drop of 10°C in the average temperature over seven days, which is common in several countries because of seasonal variations, is associated with an increased risk in being hospitalized or dying of heart failure of about 7 percent in people aged over 65 diagnosed with the disease.

During the follow-up period, 21,157 heart failure events occurred, representing 18.7 percent of the people studied. In total, 18,309 people were hospitalized and 4,297 died. In some cases, hospitalization and death occurred the same day. The researchers calculated this to 0.03 percent of patients experiencing an incident per day, which extends to about 1500 hospitalizations or deaths over a 10-year period, or 150 events per year.

Prof. Gosselin and the team suggest that elderly with heart failure should be given support and access to preventive measures, especially since managing heart failure is expensive for society. He commented:

“Our study suggests that exposure to cold or high-pressure weather could trigger events leading to hospitalization or death in heart failure patients. This means that they should avoid exposure to fog and low cloud weather in winter as they often accompany high pressure systems.”

Sep 28, 2017