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Earth in Action

A prescription for complexity: public health and climate change

By
4:35pm, August 15, 2011

Combine two of the biggest planetary challenges — climate change and public health — and you’ve got a problem as huge as Rupert Murdoch’s.

Most scientists would find either climate or health a challenging career on its own. But a few brave souls have recently ventured into the realm in between, a place where discerning the truth is harder than tracing a phone-hacking scandal to Scotland Yard.

At first glance, climate change and public health have some obvious links. As heat-trapping greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, heat waves come more often, potentially killing vulnerable populations like the poor and the elderly. Air pollution could also get worse, as warmer temperatures trap ozone and other ground-level pollutants down where people breathe. Most creepily, mosquitoes and other infectious insects could move into new territory, carrying fearsome diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Such flesh-cr

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