February 10, 2006 11:13 AM PST
Global warming to help you breathe?
A new study from University College London indicates that global warming may help shorten the season for respiratory ailments. Still, warmer temperatures are also associated with more deaths, according to other studies.
Gavin Donaldson studied data from emergency room admissions spanning 1981 to 2004 associated with the respiratory syncytial virus, a prime cause of respiratory tract infections. He also studied ER calls between 1990 and 2004 for RSV-related issues. The data indicated that the season for these types of calls ended 3.1 and 2.5 weeks earlier, respectively, for every 1 degree Celsius increase in annual temperature in the central England region.
"Climate change may be shortening the RSV season," he wrote in the abstract to an article on the subject in the March 1 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases, a scientific journal published by the University of Chicago.
But those breathing freer may die anyway. The university published research in 2004 that indicated that deaths of people over the age of 65 progressively rose as temperatures climbed past 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Some believed that the higher death toll might be caused by pollutants, but heat is a more likely culprit, the research indicated.
Global warming has moved from a fringe issue a few years ago to the front burner. The majority of the scientists who have studied the issue agree that temperatures on Earth are rising. Although some arguments remain over how much of the warming is caused by human activity, a substantial number of researchers believe that human activity has been driving global warming, particularly since the middle of the 20th century.
Entire industries, however, have sprung up around ways to reduce emissions. Oil companies, for instance, are looking at ways of storing these gases underground.