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   PoliticsThe Exxon Free Environmental Thread

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1587)11/29/2007 12:31:51 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
A jelly new world
An influx of jellies in strange places is not so hard to explain
Posted by Andrew Sharpless at 3:13 PM on 28 Nov 2007

Over Thanksgiving, I came across a news story that may represent the perfect storm of issues plaguing the oceans. A salmon farm in Northern Ireland was wiped out by a huge swarm of mauve stingers (Pelagia noctiluca), a jelly usually found in the warm Mediterranean sea.

In a 35-foot-deep, 10-square-mile swath, the jellies stung and killed 100,000 salmon before workers could reach the pens. It must have been quite a sight. The jelly's scientific name means "light of the sea," and the creatures give off an eerie, purple-red glow. I can only imagine that, at that scale, the sea looked possessed.

The incident may seem strange and isolated, but it touches on three major issues facing the oceans.

First, global warming. As temperatures rise, creatures that were once found in warm waters closer to the equator can migrate north, creating unprecedented meetings between species like the jellies and the salmon. Likewise, cold-water creatures are forced farther north in search of an appropriate home.

Second, overfishing. Oceana's research vessel, Ranger, spends summers in the Mediterranean documenting the effects of taking too many fish out of the sea. This year, Ranger photographed mauve stinger swarms in places where they shouldn't be, like Spain's rich coast. Jellies thrive when there are no predators present to keep their populations in check. In the Mediterranean, overfishing has depleted carnivorous fish, leading to an ecosystem that's out of balance. Only in these circumstances could such a large swarm of jellies assemble.

Lastly, fish farming. Farmed salmon are almost all fed on pelleted wild fish. The fish pellets are flung into the pens via sprinkler-like automatic feeders, and much of them sink to the bottom uneaten -- along with thousands of pounds of fish waste. Depending on which study you read, it can take two to ten pounds of wild fish to raise one pound of farmed salmon. Meanwhile, demand for farmed salmon -- and the wild fish to feed them -- grows and grows. According to a May 2007 Infofish report, farmed salmon production increased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2004. The fish farm destroyed last week was Northern Ireland's first salmon farm, and it probably won't be the country's last.

It's a lot to take in just from one simple, seemingly freakish news story. And just yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on alarming jelly swarms in Japan ($ub. req'd). It doesn't seem so freakish, however, when you know about the mechanisms behind the moment.

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1614)11/29/2007 12:37:05 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
Report from the World Meteorological Organization
CO2 levels hit new record in 2006
Posted by Joseph Romm at 10:40 AM on 28 Nov 2007

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in its new 2006 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, reports:

In 2006, globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere reached their highest levels ever recorded ... 381.2 parts per million (ppm), up 0.53 per cent from 379.2 ppm in 2005.
Note this is a one-year rise of 2.0 ppm, continuing the accelerated trend of the past decade, which is due to increases in global economic activity and carbon intensity, together with decreased efficiency of natural sinks, like the ocean.

Why worry so much about soaring CO2 emissions? The WMO explains:

CO2 is the single most important infrared absorbing, anthropogenic gas in the atmosphere and is responsible for 63% of the total radiative forcing of Earth by long-lived greenhouse gases. Its contribution to the increase in radiative forcing is 87% for the past decade and 91% for the last five years. For about 10,000 years before the industrial revolution, the atmospheric abundance of CO2 was nearly constant at ~ 280 ppm.
We have radically altered the composition of the atmosphere, and the bill is coming due.

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1615)11/29/2007 12:44:42 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
The GOP and climate
One small step for Republicans on climate, but giant leaps still needed
Posted by Brian Beutler at 1:11 PM on 27 Nov 2007

I've noticed recently that some conservatives -- particularly Andrew Sullivan -- have offered kind words to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being the only presidential candidate in the Republican field to take the climate change issue seriously.

It's difficult to know what to make of this. On the one hand, the country would be in a much better position to seriously address the crisis if John McCain's environmental views fell in the mainstream of his party, instead of where they actually fall -- radically at odds with the views of his party's leaders, virtually all conservative thinkers, and almost every last pundit on the right. If that's ever going to change, it will probably require more people like Andrew Sullivan to highlight -- and praise -- the fact that McCain isn't a typical right-wing denialist or industry shill.

At the same time, though, this really brings to light just how far behind the issue green conservatives are, and, as a corollary to that, the fact that the party of the filibuster is light years away from accepting the sort of legislation that will be necessary very, very soon if the problem is to be addressed adequately.

The sad fact is that, though a McCain presidency might drag a substantial contingent within the GOP in the right direction on environmental issues, and especially on climate, his own offerings have been pretty underwhelming. His big bill -- the McCain-Lieberman Act -- disappeared this Congress when it was, for all intents and purposes, replaced by the Lieberman-Warner America's Climate Security Act. That legislation is in some ways more stringent than its predecessor, and McCain has refused to cosponsor it, noting through a spokesperson that "it doesn't include the nuclear issue by name."

And there's no reason to believe that McCain would do nearly enough to address the issue as president.

Realistically, I don't know if it's worth expecting more out of conservative intellectuals who genuinely care about the issue. They're unfortunately entering the game extremely late, and their instincts for compromise are ill-suited to the problem we're facing.

If the idea is to nod approvingly at important steps taken by Republican politicians, it might behoove the Sullivans of the world to look into gestures from people like Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.); the former has introduced fairly meaty climate legislation with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and the latter is a cosponsor of Henry Waxman's hard-hitting Safe Climate Act. Neither of them is running for president, but both of them "get it" much, much more than John McCain does.

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1616)11/29/2007 2:40:12 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
Off course again
by Bill Henderson

After reading yet another climate denial piece by Bjorn Lomborg (A tsunami of nonsense), EB contributor Bill Henderson remembers the time the herring boat he was on went off course in strange waters in the middle of the night. He was furious then at those who allowed the boat to drift into danger, and he's furious now.

The crew was playing cards. It was dark, after supper. We were steaming along in strange waters somewhere inside of Nootka heading for Barkley Sound after a successful couple of days shaking herring in a rockpile at Hesquit or Esperanza (the fishing places have all blurred together with failing memory). We were happy campers chugging along having fun.

Then our skipper, David Proctor, noticed that we were off course. Turned out way off course; in a dangerous rockpile in the dark; been off course for who knows how long; didn't know where we were 'cept in big trouble.


We crawled out very slowly from that rockpile to the safe channel again; very sombre, holding our breath. We made it out and then we thankfully continued our journey along to more familiar, forgiving waters.

That night was decades and uncountable events in the life of six guys ago.

We're in as much danger today due to climate change as the crew of the Aquamotion was in that rockpile. Immediate, life-threatening danger. While moving up the learning curve to accepting that climate change is happening, Canadians have no clue how serious is our plight, how serious is our danger.

Climate change isn't just a slow rise in temperature with maybe severe weather after 2050. We are way off course and the rocks are all around us. These lethal thresholds are mostly invisible: they are tipping points past which latent positive feedbacks could carry humanity and all we recognize today as nature to extinction.

Environmental scare tactics? Get the fuck out of the way if you choose to stay ignorant and preoccupied with just your own short-term self-interest. David and the rest of us were furious at our crewmate who allowed us to drift off course on his wheel turn, but we made it out. How angry is it possible to be with somebody who in that situation insisted upon finishing the hand we were playing before taking emergency action? But isn't this exactly how we are being held prisoner, paralyzed in inaction, by those who insist upon business as usual even though this is life and death for all of us and our children?

At the bottom of my message are articles available on the net, less than an hour's reading, offering a science-based picture of how serious our climate change predicament is. Any reasonable person with this knowledge will recognize the danger. How could any reasonable person not consider being this close to possible extinction as an emergency requiring a quick and nimble change of course? And a prayer.


If we are lucky we can get outta here and back into the safe channel. But we have to take emergency action now even if we gotta throw all the deniers overboard first. There is no time to finish the hand. We've wasted decades in denial already.

During those herring years we saw other boats go down; we heard about boats sinking with the whole crew lost. It was a wild gold rush race in the worst March weather but we survived and prospered. Herring paid the down payment on our house where our kids grew up and when I think of my granddaughters I sometimes recall those harrowing hours out in the cold and dark when they were not even yet a dream. If we don't take emergency action right now climate change could be a hole in this boat, the destruction of the whole fleet, no more Rupert or Van or any other port, place, city, community, no more kids, grandchildren, no more anybody, maybe no more herring, salmon, cedar or fir either. No more life as we know it on Earth.

How Can We Avert Dangerous Climate Change? (PDF) James Hansen
How close is runaway climate change? Paul Brown
The End of Eden Michael Powell
The Big Melt (PDF) David Spratt

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Editorial Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Canadian Bill Henderson has published several other articles at Energy Bulletin.


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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1617)11/29/2007 9:42:12 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
Report: Global warming will cost Florida
Posted on Wed, Nov. 28, 2007Digg AIM reprint print email

TALLAHASSEE -- Stopping global warming. The melting of the Greenland ice cap. The slide of coastal property into the sea.

It's all going to cost Floridians a lot of money, but doing nothing will only cost more.

That is the conclusion of a report released Wednesday by Environmental Defense, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. The report was compiled by Tufts University researchers.

If Florida and the globe continue business as usual, the report predicts, by 2050 tourism will decline, sea levels will rise 23 inches, insurance and electricity prices will soar and the economic cost to the state will be $92 billion.

''We're on an escalator that's headed down,'' said Frank Ackerman, an author of the report. ``The status quo is not an option that is going to continue.''

Another report, released two weeks ago by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sends out a different warning. If Florida adopts policies pushed by Gov. Charlie Crist to meet his climate change projections -- such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2017 and 1990 levels by 2025 -- every Florida household could see costs increase 82 percent by 2020.

What's worse, says the report written by economists at CRA International, ''a massive change in Florida emissions only leads to a small global change,'' the report said. ``No matter how well policies are designed, there will be a significant overall cost to Florida of meeting the caps.''

The dueling reports are the first salvos in an emerging war over the cost of slowing global warming. House Speaker Marco Rubio raised the specter of the legislative fight to come when the House sponsored a daylong climate change summit in October that focused on the science and cost of the issue.

It's a battle that's already brewing in other states and Washington, D.C., where the issues have been discussed longer.

''This is where we see the debate going in Tallahassee and it's our organization's way of saying we're not going to cede an inch of ground on this issue of cost,'' said Jerry Karnas, Florida project director for Environmental Defense.

The report, Florida: The Costs of Inaction, was several months in the making, Ackerman said. It was launched before Crist issued his executive order in July directing the state to adopt tough new carbon dioxide emissions standards to reverse the impact of global warming by 2020. It is patterned after a similar report Ackerman and colleagues did for Britain last year.

By contrast, the chamber report, Economic Analysis of Florida's Executive Order, is in response to the governor's initiatives -- and the brewing concern among fiscal conservatives that if the governor's standards are enacted, the technology won't be available to make it economically feasible for industry to adapt.

The chamber report also notes that ''unlike other pollutants, greenhouse gases have no local effect'' and even though Florida produces 1 percent of the world's pollutants, ``it is far too small for Florida acting alone to have a measurable impact on climate.''

Ackerman disagrees. ''There's a problem of collective action,'' he said. ``We are all hostage to everyone else's good intentions. Florida is 1 percent of global emissions but, combine it with California and a number of other states and you could have a real momentum for seeing change spread more broadly. You can't conclude that it's not worth starting.''

The report clearly attempts to send a message of dread if Florida chooses to sit it out. It is chock full of grim scenarios like these:

• If sea level rises 23 inches by 2050, all but six square miles of Monroe County will be swamp and 70 percent of Miami-Dade.

• That means residential real estate, now valued at over $130 billion, will be affected, so will half of Florida's beaches, two nuclear reactors and 99 percent of all mangroves.

• Average annual temperatures will rise 2.5 degrees by 2025 and 5 degrees by 2050.

• The warmer climate will make Florida less attractive to tourists year-round, resulting in a $9 billion decline in tourism by 2025 and $40 billion by mid-century.

• Hurricanes will be more intense, resulting in more damage and higher costs -- estimated at $25 billion by 2050 -- and the cause of 19 additional deaths.

If Florida ''achieves its ambitious target of 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050, and the rest of the world follows suit with significant and immediate action,'' the outcome will be less severe, the report claims. For example, temperature will increase only 1.1 degrees by 2050 and .6 degrees by 2025 and sea level will rise only 1.8 inches by 2025 and 3.5 inches by 2050.

Meanwhile, support is growing for Florida regulators to impose some kind of guidelines on the state to reverse the release of pollutants into the air. At its last meeting, the Florida Energy Commission adopted a recommendation to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets but pushed them back three years later than Crist's, to provide more time to add nuclear generation to Florida's energy mix and to get the technology in place to make biomass and solar energy more affordable.

''Florida's current energy situation didn't materialize overnight,'' commission chairman Tommy Boroughs said last week. ``It's not realistic to think we can change it overnight. But with a strategic approach, public participation and advances in energy technology, we can change it in ways that will benefit Florida's economy and environment.''

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1618)11/29/2007 9:59:29 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
Venus inferno due to 'runaway greenhouse effect', say scientists by Marlowe Hood
Wed Nov 28, 1:37 PM ET

PARIS (AFP) - Once styled as Earth's twin, Venus was transformed from a haven for water to a fiery hell by an unstoppable greenhouse effect, according to an investigation by the first space probe to visit our closest neighbour in more than a decade.

Like peas in a cosmic pod, the second and third rocks from the Sun came into being 4.5 billion years ago with nearly the same radius, mass, density and chemical composition.

But only one, Earth, developed an atmosphere conducive to life. The other, named with unwitting irony after the Roman goddess of love, is an inferno of carbon dioxide (CO2), its surface hot enough to melt steel.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Venus Express, orbiting its prey since April 2006, seeks to explain this astonishing divergence.

Preliminary data from the probe reveal a Venus that is more Earth-like than once thought -- but not in ways that are reassuring.

At first blush, the two worlds, 42 million kilometres (26 million miles) apart at their closest points, could hardly be more different.

Earth's temperature range has remained largely stable and its atmosphere has maintained a balance of gases -- and this, with the precious water covering two-thirds of its surface, has allowed riotous biodiversity to flourish.

Venus' atmosphere, though, overwhelming comprises suffocating CO2 and a permanent blanket of clouds laced with sulphuric acid. Oxygen is nowhere to be found, nor is any water except in atmospheric traces.

Its surface hovers at 457 degrees Celsius (855 degrees Fahrenheit) and has a pressure equivalent, on Earth, to being a kilometer (3,250 feet) under the sea.

But this was not always so, says Hakan Svedhem, an ESA scientist and lead author of one of eight studies published on Wednesday in the British journal Nature.

Venus, he believes, may have been partially covered with water before it became doomed by global warming.

"Probably because Venus was closer to the Sun, the atmosphere was a little bit warmer and you got more water very high up," he told AFP.

As water vapour is a greenhouse gas, this further trapped solar heat, causing the planet to heat up even more. So more surface water evaporated, and eventually dissipated into space.

It was a "positive feedback" -- a vicious circle of self-reinforcing warming which eventually caused the planet to become bone dry.

Even today, Earth and Venus have roughly the same amount of CO2. But whereas most of Earth's store remains locked up in the soil, rocks and oceans, on Venus the extreme heat pushed the gas into the air.

"You wound up with what we call a runaway greenhouse effect," Svedhem told AFP in an interview. "(It) reminds us of pressing problems caused by similar physics on Earth."

Venus Express, the first dedicated mission since the US Magellan Orbiter mapped the planet's surface in the early 1990s, is equipped with an arsenal of sensors to peer through the dense clouds across the entire light spectrum.

One surprise already turned up by the 600-kilo (1,320-pound) probe is a 30-40 C (55-70 F) variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures at an altitude of 60 kilometres (40 miles).

At this height, violent winds three times stronger than hurricanes on Earth should even out differences, or so it had been thought.

There are many questions yet to be answered during the mission, which is scheduled to last through 2013.

One is whether there is lightning on Venus. Given the kind of clouds covering the planet, there simply should not be any, Andrew Ingersoll, a professor at Caltech University in Pasadena, California, said in a commentary, also published in Nature.

But Venus Express has detected "whistlers," low-frequency electromagnetic waves that last a fraction of a second and are normally a sure sign of electrical discharges.

Another enigma: sometime within the last 700 to 900 million years, the planet seems to have lost its skin, its topography resculpted by some giant force.

"Venus has quite recently completely changed its surface," said Svedhem. "Some event completely changed everything -- this is a strange process we do not completely understand."

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1619)11/29/2007 10:03:30 AM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
"Venus has quite recently completely changed its surface," said Svedhem. "Some event completely changed everything -- this is a strange process we do not completely understand."

The chicks probably burned it up learning to cook.

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From: Ron11/29/2007 11:11:18 AM
   of 43918
The Whole Green Blog

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To: Ron who wrote (1621)11/29/2007 8:22:44 PM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
State of the Science: Beyond the Worst Case Climate Change Scenario
The IPCC has declared man-made climate change "unequivocal." The hard part: trying to stop it
By David Biello

STATE OF THE SCIENCE: Greenhouse gas emissions and sea levels continue to rise, outpacing previous predictions in the latest research.
Climate change is "unequivocal" and it is 90 percent certain that the "net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) —a panel of more than 2,500 scientists and other experts—wrote in its first report on the physical science of global warming earlier this year. In its second assessment, the IPCC stated that human-induced warming is having a discernible influence on the planet, from species migration to thawing permafrost. Despite these findings, emissions of the greenhouse gases driving this process continue to rise thanks to increased burning of fossil fuels while cost-effective options for decreasing them have not been adopted, the panel found in its third report.

The IPCC's fourth and final assessment of the climate change problem—known as the Synthesis Report—combines all of these reports and adds that "warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending upon the rate and magnitude of the climate change." Although countries continue to debate the best way to address this finding, 130 nations, including the U.S., China, Australia, Canada and even Saudi Arabia, have concurred with it.

"The governments now require, in fact, that the authors report on risks that are high and 'key' because of their potentially very high consequence," says economist Gary Yohe, a lead author on the IPCC Synthesis Report. "They have, perhaps, given the planet a chance to save itself."

Among those risks:

Warming Temperatures—Continued global warming is virtually certain (or more than 99 percent likely to occur) at this point, leading to both good and bad impacts. On the positive side, fewer people will die from freezing temperatures and agricultural yield will increase in colder areas. The negatives include reduced crop production in the tropics and subtropics, increased insect outbreaks, diminished water supply caused by dwindling snowpack, and increasingly poor air quality in cities.

Heat Waves—Scientists are more than 90 percent certain that episodes of extreme heat will increase worldwide, leading to increased danger of wildfires, human deaths and water quality issues such as algal blooms.

Heavy Rains—Scientific estimates suggest that extreme precipitation events—from downpours to whiteouts—are more than 90 percent likely to become more common, resulting in diminished water quality and increased flooding, crop damage, soil erosion and disease risk.

Drought—Scientists estimate that there is a more than 66 percent chance that droughts will become more frequent and widespread, making water scarcer, upping the risk of starvation through failed crops and further increasing the risk of wildfires.

Stronger Storms—Warming ocean waters will likely increase the power of tropical cyclones (variously known as hurricanes and typhoons), raising the risk of human death, injury and disease as well as destroying coral reefs and property.

Biodiversity—As many as a third of the species known to science may be at risk of extinction if average temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

PAGE 1 | 2 | 3 |

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To: Wharf Rat who wrote (1622)11/29/2007 8:23:35 PM
From: Wharf Rat
   of 43918
Fever outbreak linked to climate change By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer
Wed Nov 28, 6:24 PM ET

LONDON - An outbreak in Europe of an obscure disease from Africa is raising concerns that globalization and climate change are combining to pose a health threat to the West.

Nearly 300 cases of chikungunya fever, a virus that previously has been common only in Africa and Asia, were reported in Italy — where only isolated cases of the disease had been seen in the past.

"We were quite surprised," said Stefania Salmaso, director of Italy's Center for Epidemiology at the National Health Institute. "Nobody was expecting that such an unusual event was going to happen."

While the outbreak was largely the result of stronger trade and travel ties, some experts believe it is a sign of how global warming is creating new breeding grounds for diseases long confined to subtropical climates.

Officials at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the particularly mild winter in Italy allowed mosquitoes to start breeding earlier than usual, giving the insect population a boost.

"This outbreak is most important as a warning signal," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, a climate change expert at the World Health Organization. "Climate change affects the breeding of every mosquito on earth."

More mosquitoes will mean more disease. With warmer temperatures in the future, Europe and North America might be hit by outbreaks of diseases usually confined to southern continents.

"With more movement of people and a changing climate, there will be shifting patterns of disease," Campbell-Lendrum said. "We need to be prepared for more surprises like this in the future."

Italian officials first grew suspicious in July, when dozens of people in the country's northeast complained of fevers, joint pain, headaches and rashes. Local doctors thought they had been bitten by sandflies, but lab tests confirmed chikungunya fever, a disease spread by mosquitoes.

Officials believe the virus arrived when a tourist from India brought the virus to the Italian province of Ravenna. The Asian tiger mosquito, which can spread the disease, had reached Italy nearly two decades earlier.

Experts are also nervous because the Asian tiger mosquito might be capable of spreading more dangerous diseases like dengue fever and yellow fever.

"Dengue would certainly be more worrying than chikungunya," said Dr. Denis Coulombier, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's head of preparedness and response. "It is something we need to keep an eye on, because the possibility is there."

Most scientists think Europe's advanced health systems and high living standards will help avert widespread disease. Malaria was once endemic in much of Europe but disappeared once the swamps that bred mosquitoes were replaced by buildings and medicines to treat malaria became widely available.

But development doesn't deter all mosquitoes. Certain species prefer artificial breeding sites like rain-filled gutters and plastic containers. "If the climate gets suitable enough, then even very high living standards won't necessarily protect you," Campbell-Lendrum said.

Although Italy's chikungunya outbreak has been contained, "the big question is what is going to happen in the spring next year," said Coulombier.

Other European countries should pay attention: France also saw a few dozen cases of chikungunya last year.

"Italy is not the only country that needs to prepare for another outbreak," said Dr. Evelyn Depoortere, a chikungunya expert at the European Centre. "Southern European countries around the Adriatic coast like Greece, France and Spain are also at risk."

As long as temperatures keep rising, health officials say disease detection and response systems need to be reinforced.

"Climate change is one more factor pushing us in the direction of more disease," said Campbell-Lendrum. "With warmer weather, it is very likely we will have diseases popping up in Europe that no one had ever expected to see."

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