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Global Warming and its Effects on Human Health Throughout the World in the 21 st Century. “Solutions to the problems faced by physicians will be fruitless if we ignore the health perils posed by global climate change .” - Gerald O'Hanley. By AH. What is Global Warming?.

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Global Warming and its Effects on Human Health Throughout the World in the 21st Century

“Solutions to the problems faced by physicians will be fruitless if we ignore the health perils posed by global climate change.” -Gerald O'Hanley



What is Global Warming?

Definition:An increase in the Earth’s average Atmospheric Temperature that in turn causes corresponding Changes in the Climate.


Factors That Contribute to Global Warming

University of Michigan

  • Major Carbon Dioxide (CO2)Emissions from:
      • Cars
      • Power Plants
      • Airplanes
      • Building Structures

In 1996 motorists in Los Angeles and New York City wasted 600 Million gallons of gas sitting in traffic, which is the equivalent to 7.5 million tons of CO2 [2]

University of Michigan

University of Michigan

  • Major Methane (CH4) Emissions from:
      • Rice Paddies
      • Bovine Flatulence
      • Fossil Fuel Production

Deforestation through the burning of the dense forests.


The Amazon Rainforest, which spans 7 million Km2 over 9 different countries, stores at least 75 billion tons of Carbon in the trees and other green plants.[9]

  • Major Deforestation:
      • Decrease in photosynthesis (less CO2 removed from environment) and an increase in CO2 due to deforestation burning [2]

Increase in Vector-Borne Diseases

  • Vector Organisms Include:
      • Insects
      • Rodents
      • Snails

Brown University

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

An Anopheles mosquito takes blood from a human host. This mosquito is a vector for malaria.

Mice are common vectors for the plague in infected areas

  • Vector-Borne Diseases Include:
          • Malaria
          • Dengue fever
  • Yellow fever
  • Plague
  • Various forms of viral encephalitis [6]


  • The Plasmodium Vivax parasite carried by the Anopheles mosquito (as the vector) is an organism which has the ability to cause malaria infections in humans [7]
  • The Anopheles Mosquito:
    • Very sensitive to shifts in temperature
    • Generally do not reproduce below temperatures of about 16˚C [10]
  • With an increase in temperature accompanied by a sufficient amount of moisture:
    • Increase in quantity of mosquitoes
    • Increase in biting rates/activity levels
    • Acceleration of the incubation phase of the parasites (Plasmodium Vivax) and viruses inside the mosquito


Anopheles mosquito injecting the parasite Plasmodium Vivax into it’s victim


Predictions of the Spread of Malaria by 2020

Pim Martens, Maastricht University

Warmer temperatures with increased moisture will expand the geographical range of the vector organisms to areas of higher altitude and latitude, which increases the zone of possible transmission for many vector-borne diseases.

ramifications from the spread of malaria
Ramifications from the Spread of Malaria
  • Current malaria-free areas that would be affected would have little or no defense against the infection due to lack of experience
  • Slight variation in temperature can result in a rapid reduction in the number of days required for incubation
  • These factors would result in:
    • Widespread high levels of sickness and death
    • Global warming has the potential to place as much as65% of the world’s total population at risk of infection due to malaria [5]
dengue fever

A mosquito borne disease that has no known vaccine

Dengue Fever

Similar to Malaria:

  • The geographical range of the infected mosquitoes are limited by variances in temperature
  • The strain hemorrhagic dengue fever is often deadly
  • Physicians in U.S & other probable areas where it is expected to spread have minimal experience diagnosing or treating the infection
  • An increase in temperature will lead to an increase in the geographical range

World Health Organization

  • The biting rate & time the parasite spends in incubation inside the mosquito are accelerated with an increase in temperature [3]

U.S. National Library of Medicine


World Health Organization

Climatic factors influencing the range and propagation of vector-borne and water-borne diseases, and the probable human impacts of these diseases as a result of climatic change by 2050.

It is predicted that by 2050 approximately 5, 925, 000, 000 Peopleat risk to these infectious diseases World Wide [1]

increase of water borne diseases

An increase in sea surface temperatures can lead to an increasing abundance of water-borne infections and diseasessuch as cholera [8].

Increase of Water-Borne Diseases


University ofWisconsin

The Vibrio Cholerae parasite

  • Is an intense diarrheal disease
  • Zooplankton serve as reservoirs for the parasite Vibrio Cholerae
  • Due to the consumption of contaminated water or food containing the Vibrio Cholerae parasite
  • When the sea’s surface temperature increases, an enhancement of plankton blooms occurs around the costal regions
  • The cholera toxin produced by the Vibrio Cholerae, attacks the mucous lining of the small intestine triggering the onset of massive diarrhea
  • This in turn gives zooplankton the ability to transmit this disease to other organisms, in particular humans, through contaminated drinking water

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A costal plankton bloom

It is possible that over 1 billion peoplein over 30 countries[1] will not have an available clean water source if the issue of water quality continues in the years to come.

increase in direct effects of global warming

National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Air Pollution-Related Illness

Increase in Direct Effects of Global Warming
  • In densely populated urban areas, low-level ozone will continue to form


  • Ozone is a highly corrosive gas that has the ability to aggravate or damage lung tissue in the respiratory system and induce eye irritation [1]

Flooding due to Hurricane Katrina



  • Increase in malnutrition and famine due to decrease in crop production, especially third world countries
  • A rise in sea level will lead to major flooding of costal regions
  • An increase of mortality due to both cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease will occur
  • Leading to large-scale migrations inland
  • Children in particular, will suffer the most as they are more susceptible to malnutrition [4]
  • Concentrating diseases and viruses into smaller areas with increased population densities
  • Potential to trigger rapidly spreading outbreaks of various diseases [4]
  • Heat related illnesses will become more frequent due to major heat waves, which will in particular affect the elderly

Chicago heat wave

What needs to be done to combat the Health Issues Humans will Face in the 21st Century due to the Onset of Global Warming

Health News Stat

1. Health care of humans must be put at the Forefront of climate change as humans will be the species most directly at risk to global warming.



2. Health Infrastructures must be in place in order to deal with the onset of various diseases, Especially in third world countries.


3. The development of earlier warning systems for outbreaks of ALL diseases, not just a select few, and research into possible Vaccinations and Treatments for these diseases must continue.

Nene Valley Medical Practice


4. The already strong work on the elimination and eradication through preventative chemotherapy of many tropical diseases that plague third world countries must continue forward Or Else these diseases will have the potential to spread northward effecting populations with very little experience in combating these diseases. [3]

Purdue University



[1] Beniston, M. (2002). Climatic Change: Possible Impacts on Human Health. Swiss Medical Weekly, vol. 132. Retrieved December 7, 2007 from 2002/25/smw10041.PDF

[2] Causes of Global Warming. Retrieved November 7, 2007 from

[3] Chan, M. (2007). Climate Change and Health: Preparing for Unprecedented Challenges. In World Health Organization The 2007 David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture. Retrieved December 17, 2007 from speeches/2007/20071211_maryland/en/index.html

[4] Committee on Environmental Health. (2007). Global Climate Change and Children’s Health. Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, vol. 120. Retrieved December 17, 2007 from http://pediatrics. peds.2007-2645v1

[5] Global Warming & Energy: Global Warming Impacts: Infectious Disease. Retrieved December 16, 2007 from

[6] Khasnis, A.A. & Nettleman, M.D. (2007). Global Warming and Infectious Disease. Archives of Medical Research vol. 36. Retrieved December 20, 2007 from &uid=16216650&cmd=showde tailview&indexed=google

[7] Maslin, M. (2002). Global warming: causes effects and the future. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, Inc.

[8] Patz, J. (2002). A Human Disease Indicator for the Effects of Recent Global Climate Change. In PNAS, vol. 99. Retrieved December 17, 2007 from

[9] Tesar, J. (1991). Global warming. New York: Blackbirch Graphics, Inc.

[10] Union of Concerned Scientists. (2005). Early Warning Signs: Spreading Disease. Retrieved December 15, 2007 from