The essential method for preventing climate change from affecting human health is to stop climate change altogether. While some degree of climate change has already occurred, the idea is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the extend where this phe¬nomenon is considerably slowed. The in¬tergovernmental panel on climate change has determined that a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared with 1990 levels) by 2050 will be necessary to stabilize the global temperature increase at 2–2.4 °c compared with preindustrial times. The Kyoto protocol, which was de¬veloped in 1997 by the UN framework convention on climate change, has now been ratified by 187 nations (but most no¬tably not by the us) and was put into effect in 2005.18 under the protocol, 37 devel¬oped countries have agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% compared with 1990 levels by 2012. This can be accomplished using a variety of mechanisms including emissions trad¬ing, where countries can trade credits for greenhouse gas emissions.
More recently, the UN climate change conference took place in Copenhagen in late 2009 to establish a framework for tackling climate change beyond 2012, when the Kyoto protocol expires. The European Union put forth the most ambi¬tious proposal, which would require developed countries to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% (15%–30% for developing countries) below 1990 levels by 2020. This would be accomplished by emissions trading, de-velopment of new emissions standards for cars, promoting energy efficiency among the residential sector, investment in re¬newable energy sources (rather than fos¬sil fuels), reduction in deforestation, and advancement of technologies to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere. However, the meeting ended without pas¬sage of a binding resolution. Instead, sev¬eral countries (including the US) devel¬oped a nonbinding agreement to halt the global temperature increase to 2 °c, with no mention of targets for emissions. One of the major issues at the conference was the responsibility of developed countries to assist developing countries (including China and India) in reducing emissions.
While governments must take the lead in halting climate change, it is also our re-sponsibility as individuals to do our part to reduce our own contributions to green¬house gas emissions. At home, we can use more energy efficient appliances and light bulbs, properly insulate our houses, and recycle. We should drive more fuel effi¬cient vehicles and use public transportation whenever possible. Tools are available to help us calculate our personal carbon emissions to identify areas where we could potentially improve.
Investing in infectious diseases research and prevention efforts
While reducing emissions to halt climate change is of the utmost importance, we must remember that the best case scenario would be a global temperature increase of around 2 °c. Therefore, we must also fo¬cus our efforts on...