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02 July 2007

Pedal power vs climate change

More bicycle riding and other lifestyle changes will reduce climate-altering carbon emissions that are damaging the health of people in Asia.

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More bicycle riding and other lifestyle changes will reduce climate-altering carbon emissions that are damaging the health of people in Asia and could also threaten the economy, the World Health Organisation said Monday.

Climate change contributes directly or indirectly to about 77,000 deaths per year in the region, according to WHO estimates.

"So far the impact is on the health of the people. If the trend continues, it may have an impact on the economy," said Shigeru Omi, the WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific.

"Of course the threat is there. We should not wait for that to happen," he told reporters at the start of a four-day conference on the impact of climate change and health in Southeast and East Asian countries.

Clean energy

He said that in some countries environmental issues were not given the highest priority but "if we ignore the environment, humanity will suffer." Omi proposed greater use of bicycles, the use of clean energy sources, and tax incentives to reduce carbon emissions.

Health threats from global warming include malaria and dengue fever due to the proliferation of mosquitoes, while reduced rainfall and water shortages could lead to waterborne diseases, the UN health agency said.

Damage to weather systems

Carbon dioxide from energy use is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases, which scientists blame for global warming.

At least 40 participants from 16 countries including China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have gathered to identify innovative ways to combat climate change.

A key UN report released earlier this year warned that billions would face a higher risk of water scarcity and millions more would go hungry as damage to the Earth's weather systems from greenhouse gases changed rainfall patterns, powered up storms and increased the risk of drought, flooding and water stress. - (Sapa)

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Enviro Health Centre

July 2007

 
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