Disease and Food Utilization

Food utilization also concerns the ability of individuals to make use of the nutrients available to them, and is thus closely linked to both the overall safety of the food and to the individual's health. While not all unhealthy people are necessarily food insecure, health status can be a primary contributing factor to food security. Of particular concern in poor countries are the strong feedbacks between malnutrition and disease, in which undernutrition leads to increased infection and a higher disease burden, which in turn leads to energy loss, reduced productivity, and further diminished access to food (Schaible and Kaufmann 2007). And while the underlying determinants of health and food safety are complex and clearly extend far beyond narrow climate issues, most possible manifestations of climate change (e.g., warming, drought, or floods) have the potential to negatively affect health in ways that compromise food utilization (Confalonieri et al. 2007).

Growing evidence indicates the significant role climate can play in the safety of food, as pathogens enjoy warmer climates. For instance, warming temperatures have been shown to increase the incidence of Salmonella-related food poisoning in Europe and Australia, and warming ocean temperatures have been shown to increase the incidence of human shellfish and reeffish poisoning (Kovats et al. 2004; McMichael et al. 2006).

Perhaps more importantly, climate change has the potential to affect health status directly, in ways that alter an individual's ability to utilize food. In areas with limited access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure, diarrheal disease is a leading killer, and contributes directly to child mortality and poor food utilization by limiting absorption of nutrients. Extreme rainfall events, drought events, and warming temperatures have all been shown to increase the incidence of diarrheal disease, often significantly (Checkley et al. 2000; McMichael et al. 2006; Confalonieri et al. 2007). Warming temperatures will likely also expand the range of important vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue (e.g., McMichael et al. 2006). Similarly, changes in rainfall patterns could also affect disease incidence, for instance with increasing drought heightening the risk of meningitis outbreak, or increased extreme rainfall events increasing the likelihood of cholera outbreaks (McMichael et al. 2006; Confalonieri et al. 2007).

Unfortunately, all available evidence suggests that the health effects of climate change will hit hardest where disease burdens and susceptibility to disease are already high, and where public health infrastructure is poorly developed - that is, in the poorest countries of the world. And since diseases such as malaria and diar-rheal disease disproportionately affect younger ages, the health burden of climate change will be borne primarily by children in the developing world. The broader food security impacts of these climate-related health losses have not been well quantified, and are a topic in immediate need of attention by researchers.

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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