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Warning: This could be depressing reading for some. I have posted about this report as I believe climate change is an issue that we cannot afford to ignore, even if what the scientists & researchers predict is scary.
The US Global Change Research Program has released ‘The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A scientific Assessment,’ which looks at how climate change is affecting human health & the changes that may happen in the future. Reading through this document it is easy to see how the changes can be similar for Australia.
There is a lot of information in this document, so I have cherry-picked what I found particularly interesting. I recommend reading the whole document. See – https://health2016.globalchange.gov
“Climate change can …. affect human health in two main ways:
• by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by climate or weather factors;
• by creating unprecedented or unanticipated health problems or health threats in places where they have not previously occurred.”
The researchers believe heat-related deaths will increase, especially in children, the elderly & economically disadvantaged groups.
“Days that are hotter than usual in the summer or colder than usual in the winter are both associated with increased illness and death. Mortality effects are observed even for small differences from seasonal average temperatures.”
The researchers expect “…an increase of thousands to tens of thousands of premature heat-related deaths”, however, tolerance to extreme heat is expected with the increased use of air conditioning. So we will be stuck indoors & hoping the power stays on without a problem.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that March 2016 was the hottest March on record & the 2nd March was Australia’s hottest day on record. Two records broken in the same month!
February 2016 was the hottest month globally & 2015 the hottest year since records started. Keeping with breaking records, today was the hottest April day in Sydney since records began with temperatures reaching 36.6C in Penrith & 34.2 in Sydney CBD. See – http://bit.ly/1N87KX6
Increases in outdoor air pollutants are expected (ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide & fine particulate matter). Just released research has shown that any type of particulate matter is bad for human health. See http://bit.ly/1pVLiuM
Indoor air quality is expected to deteriorate. “Poor air quality, whether outdoors or indoors, can negatively affect the human respiratory and cardiovascular systems.”
Wildfires are expected to increase, again negatively impacting air quality & “increasing the risk of premature death and adverse chronic and acute cardiovascular and respiratory health outcomes.” Bushfires are a major threat in Australia. Asthma & allergic illnesses are expected to increase.
Increases in extreme weather events are expected such as drought, flooding the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires & hurricanes. We can expect similar in Australia.
“Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases.” These are mosquitoes, ticks & viruses like Malaria & Dengue Fever. Some may be new, some may resurface & their impact will be up to the human population in how they control them, as well as how well they protect themselves.
Across most of the United States & I would assume the same for Australia, we can expect waterborne diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, harmful algae, human-produced chemicals & through “ingestion, inhalation, or direct contact with contaminated drinking or recreational water and through consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish.”
“Increases in some extreme weather events and storm surges will increase the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceedance of system capacity, especially in areas with aging infrastructure.” A couple of years ago I read that Marrickville municipality’s aging stormwater & sewerage infrastructure is at capacity & this is before the significant increase in population planned.
The recent report ‘Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System’ found that “climate change is very likely to affect global, regional, and local food security by disrupting food availability, decreasing access to food, and making utilization more difficult.” See – http://1.usa.gov/1OxfV3c So we will be hot & hungry.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide reduces the concentrations of protein and essential minerals in most plant species affecting food staples such as wheat, rice & potatoes. Rising sea temperatures is expected to increase mercury levels in seafood.
“Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidality. Other consequences include effects on the everyday life, perceptions, and experiences of individuals and communities attempting to understand and respond appropriately to climate change and its implications.”
Think PSTD as a result of the Brisbane floods. “People whose households were directly impacted by flooding had a decrease in perceived overall health, along with increases in psychological distress, decreased sleep quality and probable PTSD. Residents were also more likely to increase usage of both tobacco and alcohol after flooding.” See – http://eprints.qut.edu.au/50883/
“… populations of concern, include those with low income, some communities of color, immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children and pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.” That’s a lot of the community.
As I interpret it, you have a better chance at managing & adapting to climate change if you are a young adult, have no health issues or disabilities, are not Indigenous or an immigrant, don’t work outdoors, have a secure & sufficient income & lastly, not pregnant.
In reality it is the big industries that cause the bulk of the carbon output. Research by Richard Heede titled ‘Tracing anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions to fossil fuel and cement producers, 1854–2010’ found that “the climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age.” See – http://bit.ly/1gCaHA0
This may be pretty shocking & somewhat overwhelming, but we as individuals can make changes to our lifestyle choices that have a significant impact, particularly if enough of us do it.
Australia’s level of consumption & ecological footprint needs 4.8 planet Earths. We are ahead of the United States of America who need just 3.9 planet Earths. See – http://bbc.in/1Sk4oE5 Today 6th April 2016 the resident population of Australia is projected to be 24,037,142, while the USA started 2016 with a population of 323,572,160 almost 13.5 times greater than Australia.
The bottom line is that human beings cannot keep on living as though we have infinite resources without getting an enormous payback from the planet & unfortunately that payback is at its minimum, lots of suffering for people, & at its worse, partial or full extinction & I am not including non-human species here. We have to wonder whether we are actually destroying that which keeps us alive.
To end on a positive note, I believe that we can stop runaway climate change, but we all need to work together & start now.
Called ‘WestConnex’ & starting at Parramatta, the M4 will be widened probably removing many of the trees planted for the 2000 Olympics. It then travels up a widened Parramatta Road with an under street level slot for the motorway with Parramatta Road still able to function. A small inset in the video link below shows a boulevard-look with lots of street trees beside high-rise residential development. This will be a huge change for the suburbs along Parramatta Road.
The WestConnex Motorway travels up to Taverners Hill in Petersham & then underground with a 5km tunnel from Taverners Hill to St Peters, “returning local roads to the Inner West community.” No stacks were mentioned, but they come with tunnels as far as I am aware. The tunnel runs under the Princes Highway side of Sydney Park coming to the surface in the grounds of what I think is ‘Dial a Dump’ where coal seam gas mining was to happen & may still happen yet.
The motorway then travels beside the Alexandra Canal & through the container terminal at Tempe. It then travels above/beside the Tempe Wetlands & within spitting distance of the houses below at East Tempe. From there the road travels through all the trees planted beside Tempe Reserve & along the eastern side of Tempe Reserve through the playground & picnic facilities & over the Cooks River to travel through the Kogarah Golf Course, finally meeting with the M5 that will also be widened. The point at Tempe Reserve is the only point along the Cooks River until the river enters Botany Bay.
There appears to be an alternate route shown very briefly at 2.31secs on the video. This follows the Alexandra Canal avoiding the Tempe Wetlands, though it still travels through Tempe Reserve.
The video says that the project is the ‘highest priority’ for the NSW government with the route of the WestConnex still at concept stage. The TV news tonight says it will probably be funded by multiple tolls.
Way back in 2007 there was a US study published in the Medical Journal The Lancet, “linking motorway pollution with permanent and life-limiting damage to children’s lungs. People who live within 500 metres of a motorway grow up with significantly reduced lung capacity, & even children who have never experienced asthma are at risk.” – http://bit.ly/exrUEp
I wrote about a 2010 study done by the US Health Effects Institute who reviewed 700 worldwide health-pollution studies. They found that traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare was likely to exacerbate asthma in children, trigger new asthma cases across all ages, impair lung function in adults & could cause cardiovascular illness & death. See – http://bit.ly/QpiYx6
Last July 2012, the NSW Department of Health said that an 80% increase in lung cancer cases in residents living near the Turrella stack was unlikely to have been caused by air pollution from the tunnel stack because it takes longer for lung cancer to develop. NSW Health said they could not find a reason for the massive cancer spike in Turrella residents saying, “it could be purely chance because rates do go up & down & it’s a smallish area & the (cancer) rates are quite volatile in smallish areas.” Short video here – http://bit.ly/OgXqfP
However, a 2009 article said that researchers from Macquarie University & Queensland University of Technology found that regular users of Sydney’s M5 East tunnel were risking chronic health problems because of high levels of air pollution in the tunnel, which were 1,000 times higher than in the city. – http://bit.ly/UaDbtc
So, if it is risky to your health to repeatedly drive in the tunnel, why isn’t the air pollution that comes out of the tunnel in a concentrated form risking the health of nearby residents?
Scientific research studies like the above make me wonder why governments continue to focus on building roads rather than putting the substantial money needed to build these into better public transport. Many people think more Motorways are not the answer as they fill up & need to be bigger within a very short length of time.
Dreadful is what the Motorway will do to the wetlands, to the park above the wetlands, the considerable tree loss in Tempe & the ruination of Tempe Reserve & the Kogarah Golf Course & to the residents of Tempe & Marrickville. Perhaps St Peters & Petersham residents will be affected too. This Motorway may have a bigger impact than I can think of at this stage.
Marrickville LGA has the smallest amount of public green space in Australia, so if this Motorway goes ahead as planned, we will be losing more public green space in Tempe Reserve. This area of Tempe Reserve in particular is usually jam packed with people who use the great children’s playground, the barbeques & the picnic kiosks as well as the river for fishing. Large groups of children use the basketball courts behind the Robyn Webster Sport Centre as well. Tempe Reserve & the wetlands are a vital area for wildlife habitat in Marrickville LGA. It is not the place for a major motorway if you care about the health & happiness of people & the environment.
Drivers will be ecstatic, so I expect that there will be anger at any community opposition to the Motorway. However, I am pretty sure there will be significant community opposition in this municipality if the past is a realistic guide.
You can watch a video summary of WestConnex showing the proposed route at – http://bit.ly/Vf6UAK
The NSW government is seeking community feedback. You can email them at – email@example.com or write at – Infrastructure NSW – PO Box R220 Royal Exchange NSW 1225
We know that the particulate matter in air pollution comes from vehicles & coal power stations causes respiratory disease, including asthma in both children & adults as well as heart attack related death. Now 2 new research studies done by entirely different research groups in Germany & the USA have shown that particulate matter also increases the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.
… the new data provide important & more rigorous evidence that real-world pollution may be tampering with blood sugar control in a large & growing number of people.
The researchers used proximity to roads — where vehicles would be a major pollution source — as a proxy for exposure to fine particulates. Women who developed diabetes were more likely to have lived nearest to heavily trafficked roads.
Compared to the 25% of women living farthest from busy roads, the relative risk of developing diabetes was 15% higher for the 25% of women living closest to major roadways.
There is a growing body of literature suggesting that people with diabetes may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution.
All the more reason why we need to start planting more street trees, especially on & around main roads. This issue is fast becoming one that will have serious impacts on our health system. It makes sense to use nature to try to lessen the impact of our 21st Century lifestyle as money spent now may help mitigate the financial cost of disease in the future.
It’s well worth reading the full article – http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63971/title/Air_pollution_appears_to_foster_diabetes
I wrote about this issue here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/living-close-to-a-main-road-is-bad-for-your-health/ &