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USA Today: Feds Say Climate Change to Cause 'Irreversible' Health Risks

July 17, 2008
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By DAN VERGANO

An Environmental Protection Agency report released Thursday warns that global warming will increase disease and other health problems nationwide in coming decades.

"Climate change poses real risks to human health," says the EPA's Joel Scheraga. Some of the environmental effects will be irreversible, he says. The report details health impacts ranging from Hantavirus to wildfires to asthma, all increased by climate change.

In a statement, Rick Piltz of the Government Accountability Project, a former U.S. Climate Change Science Program (USCCSP) staffer, charged that EPA had stalled release of the health report since April for political reasons. And, he charges, the agency did not mention the health risks in a recent Supreme Court-ordered report on the dangers of greenhouse gases.

"If you read between the lines," says Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.), "this EPA report on the health effects of climate change provides further evidence that our families and communities are seriously endangered by global warming, and that we must act now. Unfortunately, as the Bush Administration made clear last week, they have no plan to address this serious threat."

Released under a 2003 requirement, Thursday's report is one of 21 "assessments" guided by the USCCSP, which is a White House office.

The report warns that more powerful floods, hurricanes, droughts and other "extreme" weather events will hit the nation by 2050 due to global warming, increasing the risks of diseases such as salmonella and giardia, as well as heatstroke. "Many of the expected health effects are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, the elderly, the disabled and the uninsured," says the report, calling for support of public health resources to combat climate effects.

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels. At current emission levels, global temperatures are likely to rise by about 2 degrees by midcentury and about 7.5 degrees by the end of the century, according to an international panel of scientists.

TABLE: SUMMARY OF REGIONAL VULNERABILITIES TO CLIMATE-RELATED IMPACTS

Source: U.S. Climate Change Science Program

Contributing: Associated Press

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