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WHO and WMO join forces against climate-based health issues

On Tuesday in Geneva, Switzerland the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced the establishment of a joint office between the two groups in order to better tackle issues involving growing health risks due to the continuing problem of climate change.

This chart from the NOAA and the NCDC clearly illustrates the dramatic rises in carbon dioxide levels and global average temperatures over the past several decades.

The primary objective of the WHO/WMO Climate and Health office will be to coordinate the flow information to better control risk management in relation to the effects of climate change. This will provide the WHO with greater access to meteorological data which could potentially help determine best practices to mitigate the impact of climate change on the health of individuals across the globe.

In a WMO press release, WHO Assistant Director-General Family, Women and Children’s Health Dr. Flavia Bustreo remarked, “Millions of people each year are affected by extreme weather events such as heat and cold waves, tropical cyclones, floods, and droughts. These events also damage or destroy health facilities and water and sanitation infrastructure, and result in unnecessary deaths and illness. Yet the most significant impacts often occur indirectly and more slowly, such as under-nutrition resulting from crop failure, respiratory diseases from poor air quality, and water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Climate-informed preparedness and prevention can greatly reduce these health risks.”

On its Climate Change and Human Health page, the WHO acknowledges the roll of climate change in heightened health risks to humans around the world.

The joint venture will be guided by the UN’s Global Framework for Climate Sciences.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud noted in the WMO press release, “There have been great strides in both climate and health science in recent years. By working together we can maximize the benefits of these advances for the greatest possible number of people.

“Climate change is leading to an increase in extreme events such as heat-waves and heavy rains which have a major impact on human health,” he added. He continued, “We need to have a common understanding of the challenges we face in order to overcome them.”

2014 is thus far on target to be one of the highest average global temperature years on record. If the expected northern hemisphere El Niño event occurs as meteorologists predict later in the year, 2014 and/or 2015 may become the warmest years on record since global measurements began in 1880.

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