(NaturalNews) The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that global warming is already unleashing severe health consequences around the world, and that these effects will only worsen if extreme measures are not taken.
"The health impacts of climate change are already evident in different ways: More people are dying from excessive heat than before, changes are occurring in the incidence of vector-borne diseases, and the pattern of natural disasters is altering," said WHO Director Shigeru Omi.
The range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes now extends farther north than ever before due to warming temperatures, he said, reaching even into South Korea and the Papua New Guinea highlands. Higher temperatures have shortened the animals' breeding cycles and thus increased their populations. Even unusually high rates of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Asia might be related to rising global temperature, he said.
"Without urgent action through changes in human lifestyle, the effects of this phenomenon on the global climate system could be abrupt or even irreversible, sparing no country and causing more frequent and more intense heat waves, rain storms, tropical cyclones and surges in sea level," Omi said.
Malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea and floods already kill 150,000 people per year, half of them in Asia, Omi said. These effects are only set to worsen.
Rising sea levels are already destroying farmland and causing migration in the Marshall and South Pacific islands. Migration is a major route by which diseases spread.
On top of these effects, global warming is expected to cause more droughts, floods and other climate upsets, disrupting food production and leading to famine, unemployment, economic upheaval and political unrest.
Poor countries are likely to be hit hardest, he noted, due to their poor resources and health care systems, and the fact that malnutrition and disease are already major problems for them.
John Ehrenberg, WHO adviser on parasitic diseases, added that these problems are all exacerbated by unchecked development and deforestation.
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