Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Anything but Kind

As I argued earlier, global warming's impact on Russia is likely to be anything but kind. One commentator suggested that I ought to provide evidence for why Russia will be worse off. Well, the Washington Post just supplied some excellent coverage of just one way Russia is likely to suffer:

Experts have long feared that Earth's warming climate would cause tropical diseases such as malaria to spread into more temperate zones, but a dramatic example of an apparently climate-related disease outbreak cropped up this winter in a cold place -- Russia.

More than 3,000 cases of infections caused by hantaviruses have been reported so far in Russian cities and towns, including many that are within a few hundred miles of Moscow, such as Voronezh and Lipetsk. The viruses can cause a serious, and sometimes deadly, disease known as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, or HFRS.

During Russia's more typically frigid winters, scientists believe, HFRS-causing viruses die off in the consistently below-zero temperatures. But this winter has been anything but cold. On Dec. 7 Moscow hit a record 46 degrees Fahrenheit. HFRS was last on a rampage in Russia in 1997, coinciding with another very warm winter. By mid-spring that year, the number of cases reached more than 20,000.

The real problem is that Russia lacks a functional public health system, which means it will be unable to respond to these kinds of public health shocks. This is not a place that will be made nicer by global warming.

There's also a nice graphic associated with this article:Hat tip: CD.

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