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Blame it on climate change

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Fri, Sept 28, 2012

Editor: As a mean of escaping reality and often responsibility, we often find something or someone to which we assign blame. Considering the ever increasing knowledge about the adverse impacts of climate change and variability on life, living and livelihood, it sounds logical that this phenomenon be directly and or indirectly blamed for current human challenges and sufferings.{{more}} No matter how this scenario is viewed, only calculated and unified human efforts can make significant and tangible differences. The choice is therefore for us to re-think current lifestyle attitudes and practices as a strategy for future gains.

Of great concern is the fact that the continuous negative impacts of climate change transcend time, sectors and ecological systems. It therefore forces us to re-think strategic endeavours, which hopefully may bring improved views on issues such as governance of natural resources and managing health challenges. Very often the issues and challenges associated with global climate change and variability are observed by many as primarily a global concern. Whether the issues are global, regional or local, it must be noted that much of our daily routines are inextricably link to climate change and variability. However, this must not be used as a basis for apply the “blame-game”.

Examine the health sector:

According to the Pan American Health Organization, approximately 60% of mortality and 45% of morbidity is attributable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases. By themselves, NCDs place a heavy burden on health and social systems. When such a burden is considered in the face of the impacts of climate change (intense heat, sea-level rise, increase flood and proliferation of vectors) the result can be socio-economically unbearable, especially to small island developing states of the Caribbean.

When one examines the climate change impact, say that of intense heat, the result can be disturbing. For example, research has shown that extremely high atmospheric temperatures contribute directly to death from cardiovascular disease, primarily among the elderly people. High temperatures also contribute to increased levels of pollutants in the air, which in turn exacerbate cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, especially within urban areas. In addition, the levels of pollen and other aero-allergens, which can trigger asthma, are often higher in extreme temperatures.

One of the many challenges of mankind is that continuous temperature increase is expected and with it comes additional health and social burdens – more of the problems we know and new problems we are unfamiliar with. When faced with circumstances like these, it is very important that people -individual and communities – adapt to minimize the expected risks. The extent of our adaptation strategy will depend on our coping capacity – our ability to cope based on our various resources. For developed nations with strong economies and advanced technical capabilities, their coping capacity will be higher. On the other hand, Small Island Developing States are expected to be at a disadvantage, as they have fewer resources with which to help them cope with the impending risks.

Knowing this and the fact that using the “blame game” has never been and will not be a viable option towards climate change adaptation, re-thinking current strategic lifestyle attitudes and practices is of utmost necessity. It is only by doing so that our chances of adapting successfully can be realized thus offering greater hope and a better future to the next generation.

Neri James

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