Tag Archives: Human Health

Sizzling summers presage a global future

Back in 2003 a heatwave centred in France killed over 70,000 people. Another which struck Moscow in 2010 killed 10,000. During the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria 173 people tragically lost their lives from the fire. However, health authorities believe Victoria’s record-breaking heatwave may have contributed to the deaths of about another 374 people with the state’s death toll 62% higher than at same time in the previous year.

The elderly were worst affected, but the very young and those in frail health are also typically affected in events like this. Continue reading Sizzling summers presage a global future

CO2 is scrambling our brains, but will it kill us all?

Ootz’s recent comment raised the question:

    should we be seriously looking at what the safe levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are for human beings?

That was in the context of an informed comment that we have not seen CO2 levels above 320 ppm for 27 million years, which predates hominid evolution. Studies indicate that 600 ppm globally, which is where we could be by 2050, might just render us extinct.

To jump to the chase, we don’t really know what the full effects of elevated CO2 will be, or indeed what they are now. However, indications are that as CO2 rises, our brains will work less well and we will become more limp and sluggish. A bit like a frog in a pot of water gradually being heated. Continue reading CO2 is scrambling our brains, but will it kill us all?

Climate clippings 56

Energy from biomass

A new report suggests that we should be able to feed a growing population, conserve the environment and produce 20% of world energy needs from biomass by making “the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and waste materials”.

The report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) can be downloaded from here.

I’m not sure how well they took into account the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. They did consider an IPCC report on renewable energy (large pdf) and a study by the German Advisory Council on Climate Change (WBGU). Of the latter they said:

The WGBU08 report is arguably the most comprehensive study of the implications of growing bio-energy crops considered here. The approach uses a spatially explicit yield model for terrestrial productivity (LPjmL) driven by IPCC climate models, and scenarios. (p. 35)

You would need to go back to those studies to see what changes of weather, melting glaciers, sea penetration of river deltas etc were taken into account. Continue reading Climate clippings 56

Climate kills

According to Oxfam 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters in the first nine months of 2010 – more than twice the number (10,000) for the whole of 2009. Their information comes from reinsurance company Munich Re.

The number of extreme weather events was 725 to September, as against 850 for 2009. The number of extreme events is likely to exceed the ten-year average of 770, but not by a large margin. This year included some particularly serious ones, such as the floods in Pakistan and the heatwave in Russia.

The Pakistan floods affected more than 20 million people, submerging about a fifth of the country, claiming 2,000 lives and causing $9.7 billion in damage. Summer temperatures in Russia exceeded the long-term average by 7.8°C, doubling the daily death rate in Moscow to 700 and causing fires that destroyed 26 per cent of the country’s wheat crop. Russia banned grain exports as a result and soon after world grain prices increased, affecting poor people particularly.

Statistics relating to extreme weather events are tricky. The number of deaths obviously relates to the severity of the individual events and how many people were living in areas where the events occurred and hence vulnerable. Continue reading Climate kills