Scientists highlight deadly health risks of climate change

(CNN)The future is expected to hold more deadly heat waves, the fast spread of certain infectious diseases and catastrophic food shortages.

These events could cause premature deaths — and they’re all related to climate change, according to a panel of experts who gathered at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Thursday for the Climate & Health Meeting.
The Climate & Health Meeting was organized to replace the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s climate change conference, which was postponed in January, ahead of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The Trump administration did not explicitly ask for the move, CNN reported in January.
    Although Trump has said that there is “some connectivity” between human activity and climate change, he also has expressed doubts about the climate crisis.
    The meeting became a subject of controversy as Trump prepared to take office last month.
    Gore also mentioned how many plants, especially crops, suffer from climate impacts.
    More extreme weather events, from high temperatures to flooding, can prevent crops from growing and reduce yields, but higher CO2 levels could also affect the foods you eat.
    “Essential nutrients like zinc, iron, copper, magnesium and calcium could decrease significantly in the food crops that we rely upon, and this is not because of higher temperatures; this is because of higher CO2 levels,” Gore said in his speech.
    Elevated CO2 has been associated with reduced protein and nitrogen content in alfalfa and soybean plants, resulting in a loss of quality, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

    A controversial meeting

    Despite the controversy surrounding the meeting, Gore and other presenters seemed pleased with the turnout.
    “They tried to cancel this conference but it is going forward anyway,” Gore said in a statement January 26.
    “Today we face a challenging political climate, but climate shouldn’t be a political issue. Health professionals urgently need the very best science in order to protect the public, and climate science has increasingly critical implications for their day-to-day work,” he said in the statement. “With more and more hot days, which exacerbate the proliferation of the Zika virus and other public health threats, we cannot afford to waste any time.”
    The Carter Center is a nonprofit founded by former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, to fight disease, hunger, poverty, conflict and oppression around the world. Carter offered use of its facilities for Thursday’s Climate & Health Meeting.
    In a guest appearance at the meeting, Carter said that while considering the possible opinion or disapproval of Congress, “the CDC has to be a little bit cautious politically; the Carter Center doesn’t.”

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    Experts hope efforts to reverse climate change effects also will benefit public health — and death rate projections.
    “It’s very hard to quantify worldwide death rates from climate change. We can do it in relatively small ways, malaria, hunger, severe storms, but the really big killers are likely to be dropoffs in nutrition, infectious diseases that are a result of both spreading vectors and of poor nutrition, population dislocation and migration,” said Dr. Howard Frumkin, a professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health, who participated in the meeting.
    What will determine the projected number of deaths, he said, will be “depending on how good a job we do in dealing with climate change.”

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