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EPA Declares Greenhouse Gases A Threat To Public Health; Other Health Issues Addressed At Climate Conference

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday “said greenhouse gases are a danger to public health and welfare in a decision that could eventually lead to new emissions regulations,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Ball/Forelle/Talley, 12/7).  According to the Associated Press/ABC News, the declaration on the opening day of the U.N. Climate Change Conference “signaled the [Obama] administration was prepared to push ahead for significant controls in the U.S. if Congress doesn’t act first on its own” (Herbert/Cappiello, 12/7).

In a statement, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “These long overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the U.S. government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” Xinhua reports (12/7).

In related news, the U.N. Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) at the conference warned that climate change could foster food insecurity, water shortages and other health threats and could increase the number of children who die of hunger, IRIN reports.  More than “19 million children face hunger-related death at any given moment but only three percent of them receive treatment, the UNSCN said in a statement [.pdf] … According to climate change projections, food production could shrink by as much as 50 percent by 2020 in some African countries, and by 30 percent in Central and South Asia, creating a very high risk of hunger,” the news service writes.

The committee is calling for the establishment of a comprehensive nutrition surveillance system and other efforts to curb the threat (12/7).

VOA News looks at some African countries’ appeal for help from developed countries to adapt to the potential effects of climate change, which some say is already affecting the health and welfare of people. “Climatic studies predict agricultural production in Sahelian countries could be cut in half by 2020,” according to the news service (Stearns, 12/7). 

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.