EXETER, England - Millions of people across the
globe are set to die early due to extreme weather events such
as floods and heat waves caused by climate change, a British
scientist said Tuesday.
Professor Mike Pilling cited the heatwave in Europe last
year that killed thousands of people from a combination of heat
exhaustion and an increase in atmospheric pollution.
"We will experience an increase in extreme weather events,"
he told reporters at the annual meeting of the British
Association for the Advancement of Science. "There are
predictions of a 10-fold increase in heat waves.
"The increasing frequency of these will inevitably result
in a sharp increase in the premature deaths of people," he
Pilling, professor of Physical Chemistry at Leeds
University in northern England, said atmospheric pollution was
like a plague stretching across the planet -- although far
worse in the industrialized northern hemisphere than the
southern -- as pollutants drifted from Asia to the United
States to Europe and back to Asia.
But the sources of pollution were not just static. The boom
in air travel for example was contributing.
"The biggest issue is climate change. We have got to
control it," he said.
The problem was not just factories, planes, power stations
and cars pumping out dirt and noxious chemicals, but also the
burning of wood and fossil fuels -- whether for heat and light
or in forest and subterranean fires.
Many industrialized nations have signed up to targets to
cut greenhouse gas emissions sharply by 2010.
But Pilling said that Britain -- and London in particular
with its high concentrations of people and traffic -- for one
was going to miss two key targets covering emissions of
nitrogen dioxide and soot particles.
"People will continue to be exposed to levels of pollution
that can cause ill health," he said.
Ozone -- a shield from harmful space radiation in the
stratosphere but a poison to people in the lower troposphere --
was also on the increase partly due to global pollution but
also to local output.
He said governments needed to tackle all causes of
pollution together, not one at a time.
"We must continue to look to improvements in technology to
cut these harmful emissions," Pilling said. "But we also have
to change the way we live."
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd