Sunday, April 20, 2014

As Earth Day Approaches - Observations on Climate Change

  • In its most recent report (March 31, 2014), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated, “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans … Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods,  cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant [ecosystem] vulnerability  Climate-related hazards affect poor people’s lives directly through impacts on livelihoods, reductions in crop yields, or destruction of homes and indirectly through, for example, increased food prices and food insecurity.”
  • A March 25, 2014 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), estimates that one out of eight deaths globally result from air pollution exposure.  Dr. Maria Neira, a WHO director said, “The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and strokes.”  Dr. Flavia Bustreo, a WHO assistant director said, “Cleaning up the air we breathe prevents noncommunicable diseases as well as reduces disease risks among women and vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly … Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves.” 
  • Recent reports from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection note that 1) 20% of the country’s farmland is polluted as a result of various industrial and agricultural activities – the leading pollutants s are cadmium, nickel and arsenic and 2) only three of the 74 cities it monitors met official minimum standards for air quality during 2013.
  • As Earth day approaches (April 22), debates continue about the validity of various environmental studies.
  • More substantive topics for discussion should focus on the trade-offs between short term economic costs and long term environmental benefits
  • Even skeptics of climate change should concede that providing a cleaner planet to future generations is better than the alternative

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