If humans continue in their current path of alteration of the environment, they will become a target of elimination from the
Atmospheric chemist Lovelock points out that failure to concentrate efforts on the very real danger of global warming
will result in a far more imminent threat of extinction than cancer, as demonstrated by the 20,000 Europeans who died during
overheating in 2003.
He concludes: "My hope lies in the powerful force that takes over our lives when our tribe or nation is threatened
from outside…perhaps when the catastrophes of the intensifying greenhouse become frequent enough, we will pull together
as a global unit with the self- restraint to stop burning fossil fuel and abusing the natural world."
Patterns of disease could change. Already, isolated cases of malaria have been reported far north of traditional danger
zones as warmer weather allows the mosquitoes which carry the disease to spread.
"This issue of MSJAMA brings together several lines of published evidence that global warming has emerged as a public
health challenge requiring serious, concerted action. Jonathan Patz and Mahmooda Khaliq survey the immediate threats posed
by climate change as well as some of the more insidious ones. Kent Bransford and Janet Lai find grounds for a common approach
to both climate change and air pollution. Stephen Liang and colleagues describe technologies that can help track the spread
of climate-sensitive infectious disease vectors. Finally, William Burns discusses public policy tools to respond and adapt
to these challenges.
Unfounded alarmism has no place either in clinical practice or in the legislative process. On the other hand, we cannot
simply ignore extensive, peer-reviewed data on the causes and impacts of climate change. Lending a sense of urgency to this
seemingly distant and abstract threat may well require us to link its consequences to our quality of life. In the absence
of domestic leadership on global warming, one way to accomplish this goal might be to summon health care professionals to
nontraditional advocacy roles. A similar approach helped give birth to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. Parties to the convention
that produced the treaty identified depletion of the UV-absorbing ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a public health
threat of potentially catastrophic proportions requiring immediate action, namely, the phasing out of CFCs and related compounds."
- John F. Staropoli