Government 'policy' on climate change: ecocide and homicide
The New Zealand government ignores and even ridicules dire health warnings about climate change.
The minister and the doctors
A press release on 6 November by a group of New Zealand doctors concerned with averting health catastrophes due to climate change was immediately described as 'absurd' by the minister for trade Tim Groser.
The minister for trade also happens to be the minister responsible for international climate change negotiations, an outstanding example of putting a fox in charge of the henhouse. It is not surprising that during his tenure the weak emissions trading scheme has been weakened further, to the point of complete ineffectiveness, and the NZ government has decided not to take part in the second phase of the Kyoto treaty on climate change mitigation.
Climate change diseases - WHO report
Diseases and deaths due to global warming are not just something to be feared in future. While the health effects from climate change can only be estimated approximately, a World Health Organisation assessment, taking into account only a subset of the possible health impacts, concluded that the modest warming that has occurred since the 1970s was already causing over 140 000 excess deaths annually by the year 2004.
Specific examples were the heatwave in Europe in the summer of 2003, when high air temperatures contributed directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, particularly among elderly people, and more than 70 000 excess deaths were recorded. High temperatures also raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air contributing to cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Urban air pollution causes about 1.2 million deaths every year.
Globally, the number of reported weather-related natural disasters has more than tripled since the 1960s. Every year, these disasters result in over 60 000 deaths, mainly in developing countries.
Floods are also increasing in frequency and intensity. Floods contaminate freshwater supplies, heighten the risk of water-borne diseases, and create breeding grounds for disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes. They also cause death by drowning and physical trauma, damage homes and disrupt the supply of medical and health services.
Rising temperatures and variable precipitation are likely to decrease the production of staple foods in many of the poorest regions – by up to 50 per cent by 2020 in some African countries. This will increase the prevalence of malnutrition and undernutrition, which currently cause 3.5 million deaths every year.
Malaria is strongly influenced by climate. Transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, malaria kills almost 1 million people every year – mainly African children under five years old. The Aedes mosquito vector of dengue is also highly sensitive to climate conditions. Studies suggest that climate change could expose an additional 2 billion people to dengue transmission by the 2080s.
Climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
The direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), is estimated to be between US$ 2-4 billion/year by 2030.
World Bank weighs in
Recently the World Bank has released a report listing its concerns about the economic effects, many of them caused by human health problems, due to climate change. It covers most of the WHO report's concerns about failure of clean water supplies, agriculture and ecosystems which will impact on the health of people as well as the health of their economies. Developing countries will be most vulnerable.
New Zealand and the wider world are paralysed on climate change because fossil fuels are central to our current wealth. This state of economic wellbeing is illusory, given the harm it will mean for future generations by the ecocide and homicide that human-induced climate change is already beginning to wreak on the planet.