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Climate Change Cited as World’s Biggest Health Threat

Last Updated: May 14, 2009.

During the 21st century, climate change will present the world's most important health challenge, according to a report published in the May 16 issue of The Lancet.

THURSDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) -- During the 21st century, climate change will present the world's most important health challenge, according to a report published in the May 16 issue of The Lancet.

Researchers from The Lancet and the University College London Institute for Global Health Commission reviewed recent scientific reports on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature, sea-level rise, ice sheets, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events.

The researchers' consensus is that the earth's average surface temperature will exceed a safe increase of two degrees Celsius above the average preindustrial temperature, especially in higher latitudes. They conclude that the result will be increased deaths from insect-borne diseases, heat waves, food and water scarcity, and hurricanes, cyclones, and storm surges -- all of which will disproportionately affect poorer countries which have contributed least to carbon emissions.

"We call for a collation of global expertise on the health effects of climate change leading up to a major conference within the next two years, which will define the priorities for management, implementation, and monitoring," the authors write. "Representation from developing countries should be emphasized. The conference should bring representatives of all interested groups together to share experiences, and to discuss and endorse a set of key indicators and targets (climate and health adaptation goals developed by an international expert working group) for concerted global action."

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