HEALTH WARNING ISSUED FOR GLOBAL WARMING

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HEALTH WARNING ISSUED FOR GLOBAL WARMING

 user 2005-02-26 at 10:38:00 am Views: 70
  • #10546
    Health warning issued for global warming
    Climate change could bring more
    smog, floods, drought

    If
    Earth’s climate warms steadily in coming decades, as many scientists
    predict, heavy smog and extreme weather events could increase health
    risks in the United States and around the world,scientists said this
    weekend.Warmer temperatures could bring increased rainfall to some
    regions, computer models suggest, as well as heat waves and drought.

    The Midwest and northeast United
    States could see more frequent stagnation of air masses in the summer, for
    example. The condition would allow pollution—harmful low-level ozone and tiny
    particles that damage the lungs—to linger and build.

    “The air just cooks,” said Loretta
    Mickley, a research associate at Harvard University.”The pollution accumulates,
    accumulates, accumulates, until a cold front comes in and the winds sweep it
    away.”

    Mickley ran a computer model that
    assumed global warming through the year 2050. The frequency of virtual cold
    fronts that normally dip down from Canada to clear the U.S. air drops by 20
    percent.

    Other studies have shown that high
    levels of pollution are related to an increase in hospital admissions for
    cardiac and respiratory problems.

    Global slowdown
    The possible
    reduction in cleansing cold fronts is based on known aspects of the
    interconnected global climate. Low-pressure systems transfer heat out of the
    tropics and bring cold air away from the poles. If the planet warms, the poles
    are expected to warm more quickly. That would decrease the temperature
    difference between the poles and the equator, so the atmospheric “engine” that
    moves heat around would slow down.

    “If this model is correct, global
    warming would cause an increase in difficult days for those affected by ozone
    pollution, such as people suffering with respiratory illnesses like asthma and
    those doing physical labor or exercising outdoors,” Mickley said.

    The simulation was presented at the
    annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
    Washington.

    In an unrelated study announced
    Sunday, particulate matter — basically, tiny bits of soot — was found to thicken
    the blood and boost potentially harmful inflammation.

    In the research, reported in the
    journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, scientists exposed human immune
    cells, umbilical cord cells and lung cells to particulate matter. The blood’s
    ability to clot, or thicken, was enhanced in each.

    “The rate of death in immune cells
    also significantly increased,” the researchers report.

    Other extremes
    Though the causes
    of global warming are often disputed, most scientists agree change is under way,
    at least in the short frame of time that humans have been paying close
    attention. In terms of global average surface temperature, the four warmest
    years since the 1890s are 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Long-range climate
    predictions suggest 2005 may top them all given current conditions, such as the
    state of El Nino.

    In a separate presentation at the
    AAAS meeting Sunday, Jonathan Patz of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said
    global warming could bring on a wave of health risks.

    A possible increase in major storms,
    heat waves and flooding will be among the deadly effects, rather than the actual
    warming itself, Patz said.

    “Averages don’t kill people — it is
    the extremes,” he said.

    Patz cites the heat wave that struck
    Europe last summer, claiming at least 22,000 lives, as an example of deadly
    events to come. Other scientists have suggested that the European heat wave, and
    even the unusual spate of four hurricanes in Florida last year, were related to
    a warming climate. But scientists are far from agreement on whether individual
    events like these can be attributed to overall climate change.

    One thing is certain: While weather
    events like hurricanes, tornadoes and floods make for good TV headlines, heat
    and drought are deadlier.

    A review of climate and weather
    disasters in the United States, going back to 1980, shows the top two killers
    were heat waves and associated drought, in 1980 and 1988. Combined, at least
    15,000 people died owing to hot and dry conditions those two years. Drought
    contributes to famines and disease outbreaks in less developed countries that
    kill millions.

    Mosquitoes and disease to
    spread
    Scientists are not sure how climate change will affect the planet.
    Many speculate, based on computer modeling, that generally more extreme
    droughts, floods and other conditions could be on the horizon.

    Increased local rainfall, Patz said,
    would benefit insects and animals that carry human disease. Similar warnings
    date back several years.

    Several studies have linked increased
    rainfall to disease outbreaks. More than half of the waterborne disease
    outbreaks in the United States in the past 50 years were preceded by heavy
    rainfall, according to a 2001 Johns Hopkins University
    study.

    _________________________________________

    Global Warming Could
    Worsen U.S. Pollution: Report

    WASHINGTON – Global warming could
    stifle cleansing summer winds across parts of the northern United States over
    the next 50 years and worsen air pollution, U.S. researchers said on Saturday.


    Further warming of the atmosphere, as is happening now,
    would block cold fronts bringing cooler, cleaner air from Canada and allow
    stagnant air and ozone pollution to build up over cities in the Northeast and
    Midwest, they predicted.

    “The air
    just cooks,” said Loretta Mickley of Harvard University’s Division of
    Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The pollution accumulates, accumulates,
    accumulates, until a cold front comes in and the winds sweep it away.”

    Mickley and colleagues used a
    computer model, an approach commonly used by climate scientists to predict
    weather and climate changes.

    She told a meeting of the American Association for the
    Advancement of Science that the model predicted a 20-percent decline in summer
    cold fronts out of Canada.

    “If this model is correct, global warming would cause an
    increase in difficult days for those affected by ozone pollution, such as people
    suffering with respiratory illnesses like asthma and those doing physical labor
    or exercising outdoors,” she said.

    World temperatures have risen by an average of 1 degree
    Fahrenheit (0.6 degree Celsius) over the past century.

    Earlier this week 141 nations signed the U.N. Kyoto
    Protocol aimed at cutting the so-called greenhouse gas emissions that fuel
    global warming.

    It imposes caps on carbon dioxide emissions, mainly from
    burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars, in 35 developed
    nations.

    The United States, which produces the most pollution of
    any country, has refused to sign it.

    The model used by Mickley and her colleagues
    incorporates things such as the sun’s luminosity, topography of the planet, the
    distribution of the oceans, the pull of gravity and the tilt of the Earth’s
    axis, as well as predicted warming.

    They fed in gradually increased levels of greenhouse
    gases at rates projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. What
    they found surprised them.

    “The answer lies in one of the basic forces that drive
    the Earth’s weather –the temperature difference between the hot equator and
    the cold poles,” Mickley said.

    In the middle latitudes, low-pressure systems and accompanying
    cold fronts help redistribute heat by carrying warm air to the poles and
    replacing it with cool air. Warming slows that process down, Mickley’s team
    found.