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In addition to rising sea levels and storm surges, the heating of the globe is already causing an impact on public health.

Earth's warming climate is estimated to contribute to more than 150,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses each year, according to the World Health Organization, a toll that could double by 2030.

The data, being published today in the journal Nature, indicate that climate change is driving up rates of malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea throughout the world.

Health and climate scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who conducted one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to measure the impact of global warming on health, said the WHO data also show that rising temperatures disproportionately affect poor countries that have done little to create the problem. They reached their conclusions after entering data on climate-sensitive diseases into mapping software.

"Those most vulnerable to climate change are not the ones responsible for causing it," said the study's lead author, Jonathan Patz, a professor at the university's Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and its department of population health sciences. "Our energy-consumptive lifestyles are having lethal impacts on other people around the world, especially the poor."

The regions most at risk from climate change include the Asian and South American Pacific coasts, as well as the Indian Ocean coast and sub-Saharan Africa. Patz said that was because climate-sensitive diseases are more prevalent there and because those regions are most vulnerable to abrupt shifts in climate. Large cities are also likely to experience more severe health problems because they produce what scientists refer to as the urban "heat island" effect.

Just this week, WHO officials reported that warmer temperatures and heavy rain in South Asia have led to the worst outbreak of dengue fever there in years. The mosquito-borne illness, which is now beginning to subside, has infected 120,000 South Asians this year and killed at least 1,000, WHO said.

From article in WaPo.

by Plan9 on Sat Nov 19th, 2005 at 02:53:59 PM EST

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