ix introduction: Current status of Environmental Health Robert H. Friis introduction Environmental health is a topic of ongoing fascination for contemporary society, as illustrated by the continuing flow of media reports on envi- ronmental disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, floods, oceanic oil spills, drinking water contamination by toxic chemicals, species extinc- tions, and outbreaks of infectious and communicable diseases linked to poor sanitation. One issue that has captured the attention of environmen- talists is global warming, a controversial subject debated with great pas- sion by government officials, policy makers, scientists, economists, and the business community. The focus of the debate has been the severity of warming, its causes, methods for prevention, and the cost of reducing carbon emissions. The specter of global warming was heralded in summer 2010 by devastating floods in Pakistan and record-breaking heat waves such as those experienced in Russia, which normally has a much cooler summer temperature. Extreme heat waves, a kind of temperature anomaly, are believed to be the consequence of global warming, as are rising ocean levels caused by melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers this phenom- enon threatens human habitation in some low-lying coastal zones. Governmental bodies and health-related agencies have responded to envi- ronmental threats caused by global warming and other human impacts by proposing a number of policy initiatives. For example, in the United States President Barack Obama has called for a reduction in carbon dioxide emis- sions (linked to global warming and climate change) by using clean energy sources to produce 80 percent of domestic electricity by the year 2035.1 Policy makers in the European Union have identified four strategic priori- ties related to the environment: climate change, protection of nature and
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