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Australia to pay price for global warming - report

Date: 12-May-03
Country: AUSTRALIA

The study, which was commissioned by the Australian government, also warned that the risk of tropical diseases, like dengue, could spread south in Australia and urged the authorities to start preparing the health system.

"Reducing the total level of greenhouse gas emissions remains a primary preventive health strategy," environment, health and weather experts said in the report published this week.

"Given that current levels of greenhouse gases will continue to influence climate over the next several hundred years, a greater research effort must now also be directed towards how humans can adapt to these changes," the authors said.

Australia, which ranks as the world's top per capita emitter of greenhouse gases due to huge coal exports and its small population, has infuriated environmentalists by joining the United States in rejecting the Kyoto pact.

Kyoto committed developed countries to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, believed responsible for rising world temperatures.

The authors said heat-related deaths in Australia could rise by up to 164 percent in some cities by the year 2050.

Thirty years later, the national picture could be more mixed as climate change is expected to drastically reduce rainfall in some parts of the food-producing island continent.

Malaria and dengue, both mosquito-borne, may spread with up to 1.6 million Australians potentially exposed to dengue by 2050.

More vulnerable than wealthy Australia are the largely poor and low-lying islands of the South Pacific, the report said. Most affected would be the Papua New Guinea islands, Micronesia and Kiribati.

If sea levels rise by 80 cm by 2085 as some scientific models predict, 170,000 people across the South Pacific could be exposed annually to flooding compared with around 5,000 now.

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