Climate Change and Respiratory Health

Current Evidence and Knowledge Gaps

Tim K Takaro; Kim Knowlton; John R Balmes


Expert Rev Resp Med. 2013;7(4):349-361. 

In This Article

Five-year View

Over the past five years since the IPCC report in 2007 stated in the clearest terms yet that anthropogenic warming is occurring, there has been little encouraging activity from governments participating in the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) annual meetings. Scientists and some government agencies have laid out multiple significant societal and ecological impacts of climate change, including clearly articulating that a rise in average global surface temperature greater that 2o C will overwhelm the biological balance in many of the earth's fragile ecologies (58, 59). While these predictions are raising increasing alarm, they are not generating any indication of the massive international governance and energy policy shifts needed to reduce greenhouse gas production or begin increasing adaptive capacity for the most vulnerable nations. Globally, fossil fuel use continues to grow driven in part by the large rapidly growing economies of China and India. Arguments continue about the inequitable distribution of economic development and the relationship between this human need and the historic and future energy needs of developing countries. If the international community cannot reach agreement on binding reductions in GHGs in the next five years, we are very likely to exceed the biological capacity of many crucial ecosystems worsening the health effects outlined in this paper. Future generations will rightfully condemn our inability to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and better prepare them for their own future development.