Change Could Make Humans Extinct, Warns Health
By Deborah Snow, Peter Hannam
March 31, 2014 "Information
Clearing House - "SMH"-
The Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans
can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ''extinct''
as a species, a leading Australian health academic
associate dean in the faculty of health at the
University of Canberra, said while the Earth has
been warmer and colder at different points in the
planet's history, the rate of change has never been
as fast as it is today.
remarkable, and alarming, is the speed of the change
since the 1970s, when we started burning a lot of
fossil fuels in a massive way,'' she said. ''We
can't possibly evolve to match this rate [of
warming] and, unless we get control of it, it will
mean our extinction eventually.''
Berry is one of three leading academics who have
contributed to the health chapter of a
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
report due on Monday. She and co-authors Tony
McMichael, of the Australian National University,
and Colin Butler, of the University of Canberra,
have outlined the health risks of rapid global
a companion piece for The Conversation,
also published on Monday. The three warn that the
adverse effects on population health and social
stability have been ''missing from the discussion''
on climate change.
''Human-driven climate change poses a great threat,
unprecedented in type and scale, to wellbeing,
health and perhaps even to human survival,'' they
predict that the greatest challenges will come from
undernutrition and impaired child development from
reduced food yields; hospitalisations and deaths due
to intense heatwaves, fires and other
weather-related disasters; and the spread of
the ''largest impacts'' will be on poorer and
vulnerable populations, winding back recent hard-won
gains of social development programs.
to an average global warming of 4 degrees by 2100,
they say ''people won't be able to cope, let alone
work productively, in the hottest parts of the
that action on climate change would produce
''extremely large health benefits'', which would
greatly outweigh the costs of curbing emission
draft of the IPCC report notes that a warming
climate would lead to fewer cold weather-related
deaths but the benefits would be ''greatly''
outweighed by the impacts of more frequent heat
extremes. Under a high emissions scenario, some land
regions will experience temperatures four to seven
degrees higher than pre-industrial times, the report
adaptive measures are possible, limits to humans'
ability to regulate heat will affect health and
potentially cut global productivity in the warmest
months by 40 per cent by 2100.
temperatures rising above 38 degrees impair physical
and cognitive functions, while risks of organ
damage, loss of consciousness and death increase
sharply above 40.6 degrees, the draft report said.
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Farm crops and livestock will also struggle with
thermal and water stress. Staple crops such as corn,
rice, wheat and soybeans are assumed to face a
temperature limit of 40-45 degrees, with temperature
thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35
degrees, the report said.