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Climate change set to hit health: report -

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Reporter: Stephanie Kennedy

PETER CAVE: The first major report investigating the effects of climate change on people's health
describes the increase in greenhouse gases as the biggest global threat to health in the 21st
century.

As the temperature increases so will disease and malnutrition in developing countries. The report
says the western world will not be immune and can expect heat waves which are so dangerous for the
elderly.

Stephanie Kennedy reports from London.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: As the world heats up so does the debate over the impact of climate change on
people's lives. A new report published in the world's leading medical journal "The Lancet" is the
first major acknowledgment that climate change will dramatically affect global health.

Dr Richard Horton is from "The Lancet".

RICHARD HORTON: The most important message of this report, is that climate change is the biggest
threat to health in the 21st century. It's a threat that's been completely neglected, marginalised,
ignored by not just the global health community, by doctors, nurses and other health professionals,
but also by policymakers.

And yet, in terms of our wellbeing, in terms of our survival over the next hundred years it is
absolutely the top political issue that we should be talking about.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: The report's authors argue that climate change is not just an environmental
issue concerning polar bears and deforestation, its impact on people's health is already being felt
with heat waves and flooding.

Professor Anthony Costello from University College London is one of the lead authors and he warns
that the diagnosis is not good with the developing world hardest hit by climate change.

ANTHONY COSTELLO: With food and water security being major problems, you will get big changes in
hungry people. About a billion people are hungry right now, and the numbers went up very steeply
last year as a result of the food price crisis.

Food prices have come down, but not back to where they were two years ago, and if the climate
scientists are right about crop yields, we may see a worsening food crisis, with more people
hungry.

Malnutrition underpins about 60 per cent of childhood deaths, and water insecurity of course
increases the risk of diarrhoeal disease and malnutrition. We may well see increasing tropical
diseases like dengue fever, new viruses like West Nile, hantavirus and others, and malaria of
course in endemic areas, may spread into new areas.

STEPHANIE KENNEDY: What would be the impact in western countries?

ANTHONY COSTELLO: In the short term, it depends where you are, heat waves will take their toll, you
may see more infections from travellers and people travelling to tropical climates will be more
vulnerable to extreme events. In the longer term, you're going to see more problems arising from
food security and population migration.

But I would turn it on its head and say if we take the actions we need to in the wealthy world, to
move to a low-carbon lifestyle, there are huge health benefits. We're going to have less obesity,
less heart disease, less diabetes, less pollution and lung disease, and certainly less stress.

So I think getting us onto our bikes, and out of our cars, and taking a responsible attitude to the
use of fossil fuels is going to have major health benefits.

PETER CAVE: There's an optimist for you, Professor Anthony Costello from the University College in
London.