If climate change deniers are still asking questions on how the phenomenon can affect or even kill us, they are now served with a hardly disputable answer coming from a new research which shows how the advancement of global warming can spread Malaria to areas normally unaffected.
The study, published on Science, was carried out by Menno Bouma, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, together with colleagues from the University of Michigan. The researchers investigated the insurgence of the disease in Ethiopia and Colombia between 1990 and 2005.
In order to produce more accurate results, the scientists corrected their findings taking into account a number of factors that mitigates or facilitate the disease independently from climate.
The study yielded hard evidence that climate change influences the median altitude where the illness usually occurs. In fact, Malaria was found to crawl up at higher altitudes in the course of warmer years and descend to lower altitudes during cooler years.
According to Bouma, the implications of such results are quite serious and suggest that with the progressive advancement of global warming malaria will literally climb up mountains and spread to areas located at high altitudes where it was uncommon before.
Malaria is one the biggest killers in world, an infectious disease that affects between 200 and 300 million people a year, causing death for more than 600 thousands of them. The exact numbers are difficult to obtain as many of the victims live in developing countries where data collection is scarce or missing.
The disease is very common within the so-called “Malaria Belt,” a geographical area that includes some of the warmest tropical areas on the globe, where the Malaria parasites, known as Plasmodium, are passed to human beings by Anopheles mosquitos that usually prosper in warmer environments.
The change in Malaria’s areas of incidence makes the sickness more difficult to cure because the population living at higher altitudes in Ethiopia and Colombia is rarely infected and therefore far more vulnerable.
Furthermore, many of the countries comprised within the Malaria Belt do not dispose of effective programs for fighting the disease and global warming will be for them just one of many other factors contributing to spread the deadly infection.
The Time points out that Malaria is “first and foremost of problem of development and poverty” that declines when those are addressed. Singapore is mentioned in the article as an example of a Malaria Belt country that has “virtually eradicated” the illness thanks to strict control methods.
The article also argues that in Africa the incidence of the sickness has fallen by 31 percent since 2000, thanks to the preventive measures put in place by organizations like the Gates Foundation.
However, there is one aspect of global warming that the article does not mention. The increasing warming of global climate will cause floods, draughts and other disasters linked to extreme weather conditions.
Many of these phenomena are already occurring in developing countries and are putting local governments and NGOs under financial pressure, reducing the amount of humanitarian aid that could be devolved to address new, unexpected challenges.
Unfortunately, the dangerous spread of Malaria is only one minor instance of how badly global warming can affect our lives and represents just one more entry in the long lists of reasons why its deniers would be better off getting a grip on reality and start acknowledging what is happening under their noses.
By Stefano Salustri