Health and disease by Diane Andrews Henningfield 136 p. Farmington Hills: Greenhaven, 2011. 978-0-7377-4858-1
All of the volumes in the Confronting Global Warming series by Greenhaven share a preface and introduction asserting that increased emissions from fossil fuels in the atmosphere will result in excessive heating as greenhouse gases build up. This volume describes how resulting climatic consequences demand systemic retooling of current practices to avoid increased human mortality.
The heat stress of a warmer world is the most conspicuous intersection of health and climate change, with the severity of heat stroke often underestimated, as are increased instances of cardiovascular episodes during heat waves. There are also a number of ways that climate change can impact the food chain. Even remote air pollution can degrade food and soil, and floodwaters and runoff can contain toxic chemicals that contaminate areas far from their points of origin.
On a larger scale, increasingly arid climates will lead to desertification and drought, with two million people now live in regions that are considered drylands. In these areas, in drought conditions, crops fail, livestock perish, and dust storms and wild fires wreak havoc on communities. In addition to the analysis, there is tabular data including projected deaths as temperatures rise, applicable cartographic data, and data reflecting occurrence of infectious disease, hurricanes, and floods
The case of Hurricane Katrina is used to illustrate limited capacities of medical response to climate-based extreme weather. There are also object lessons about public health challenges provided by water contamination and shortages, power outages and downed lines, and lingering health effects, especially the mental health issues suffered by evacuees and refugees. Climate change can contribute to forced migrations. In camps and in shelter conditions, without refrigeration and with makeshift, sometimes tainted, water supplies, there will be an increase in both vector-born diseases and zoonotic diseases, that of animal origin that can spread to man. Public health officials predict an increased frequency of dengue fever and malaria and spread of fungal diseases.
Degraded air quality is a health concern, as increases in ozone attributable to car exhaust are linked to increases in allergies and asthma. Industrial byproducts include toxic compounds and heavy metals carried in smog and particulate pollution, and allergens such as mold and fungi are linked to increased precipitation
Another aspect of health includes the access and availability of food, with malnutrition often resulting from an upset in staple crop production. The text describes the potential for genetically modified foods, which can be cultivated for drought resistance and shelf stability. In developing countries, these and other proactive strategies will be important adjustments for a world where food and water and increasingly scare commodities.
The text concludes with stories of strategic mitigation and adaptation in coastal areas. The loss of homes to rising sea level in densely populated areas requires public health warning systems to notify aging and vulnerable populations. Planting trees can offset urban heat islands, and communities can increase access to air conditioned spaces. There are descriptions of large-scale engineering efforts in the low-lying Netherlands. International political solutions will be required for some areas where incursions of sea water or reversing currents threaten isolated indigenous populations
There is a succinct concluding chapter that summarizes the text as a whole, a glossary, a list of print and digital materials for further research, and an index. Each chapter features endnote citations linking to original source material, which is important given the sometimes politically contentious nature of the series. Recommended for school libraries.