NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Buzz About Global Warming and Malaria

April 13, 2004

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claim that recently increasing rates in malaria are caused by climate change. However, Roger Bate, director of the nonprofit organization Africa Fighting Malaria, says that failed policies of the WHO are to blame.

Over the past decade, dengue fever, yellow fever and malaria have increased worldwide, and the number of deaths from such diseases is expected to double by 2020. However, history suggests the increase is not likely due to global warming:

  • During most of the 20th century, rainfall, not temperature, was a primary factor in malaria outbreaks in Africa.
  • Malaria outbreaks in the 19th century occurred in much cooler regions such as Finland, Sweden and the Arctic Circle in Russia.
  • Malaria was also common in America in the 19th century, with outbreaks as far north as New York City and Minnesota.

Malaria epidemics drastically declined beginning in the 1960s with the use of the insecticide DDT in many parts of the world, as well as the development of improved health systems and more physical barriers between mosquitoes and humans:

  • However, malaria cases rose dramatically in South Africa after officials banned DDT in 1996 in response to pressure from environmental groups.
  • DDT was then reintroduced in South Africa in 2000, and infection rates declined by 85 percent in only eighteen months.

Bate suggests that massive spraying of insecticide in the developing world would greatly reduce the reduce malaria, possibly even eradicating the disease.

Source: Roger Bate, "Climate Change and Mosquito-Borne Disease: Causal Link or Green Alarmism?" American Enterprise Institute, March - April 2004.


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