Global warming is bringing previously defeated diseases like malaria and other fatal tropical illnesses back to Europe. Italy is at the front of the firing line, according to a new report by environmental association Legambiente. ‘We are at the southern edge of the globe’s temperate area and that’s why Italy is being hit hardest by recent dramatic climatic changes,’ said Legambiente chief Francesco Ferrante. ‘As a result, we are importing illnesses from Africa,’ said Ferrante, who is an MP in the centre-left governing coalition.
The report pointed out that increasingly frequent heat waves in Europe are raising fatality rates as well. Between July and September 2003, for example, when temperatures in Italy were 4 to 5 degrees above the seasonal average, the number of deaths increased 14.5 percent from the previous year.
Ferrante claimed the greenhouse effect is ‘attacking the nation’s biodiversity,’ with tropical birds and fish taking the places of domestic species. The report said that 20 percent of Mediterranean fish are now tropical species that have emigrated from the Red Sea. Farm animals are not exempt from the effects of climate change, with pathologies like bluetongue disease traveling from Africa to southern Italy.
The report highlighted how global warming brings drought and desertification to parts of Italy. The regions most exposed to this threat are Sardinia, Sicily, Puglia, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont. ‘These threats are no longer a prophecy in the future, they are already a problem right here in the present, causing damage to citizens’ health, security and welfare,’ Ferrante concluded.