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Stomach bugs blamed on climate change

November 20, 2008

Philipines Health Secretary Francisco Duque said today that global warming was part of the cause of a recent spate of diseases including an outbreak of gastroenteritis that has infected more than 2,000 people and killed 3. “The temperature is increasing leading to more diseases. There’s going to be propensity for more cholera, dengue, typhoid and malaria,” he warned.

These are all diseases of poverty. And political solutions exist for all of them. Duque is right to point out that as the climate changes, there will be more cases of all of these diseases. But to blame the global climate crisis for deaths that could be prevented by adequate sanitation, clean drinking water, bednets and standing-water management is to walk away from your responsibility as part of an autonomous government.

It is becoming increasingly fashionable for climate change to be used as a catch-all scapegoat for trivial and serious problems alike, and it’s easy to do – the nature of climate science means that the models can predict broad probabilities for everything from disease outbreaks to water shortages. But that’s a bit like holidaying without sunblock and then blaming the Sun for your skin cancer. Climate change like every other social and political problem needs to be dealt with by first realising its complexity and appreciating the extent of its Mr Tickle arms in the lives of people around the world.

Think I’m being harsh? Let me know.

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