Climate change, health and fundamental science were among the topics discussed at the second day of a workshop titled “Fundamental Science and Society” in the south-central city of Quy Nhon in Binh Dinh province last week.
The two-day event, taking place at the International Center of Interdisciplinary Science Education, was held within the framework of Vietnamese Professor Tran Thanh Van’s ‘Rencontres du Vietnam’ (Meet Vietnam).
The ongoing ‘Rencontres du Vietnam’ is a major science and education program aimed at helping Vietnamese and Asian-Pacific scientists establish contacts and exchanges with Western colleagues, consisting of multiple Nobel laureates.
This year marks the 12th edition of the event held in celebration of the 50th anniversary of ‘Rencontres de Moriond’ initiated in 1966 by Professor Tran Thanh Van.
Alarming global warming in Vietnam
2015 was the warmest year since the El Nino of 1850, Prof. Jean Jouzel - Former Vice President of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2007 – said in his general introduction of global warming using statistics from the IPCC.
According to same numbers, 95 percent of global warming is the result of human activity, of which the most significant result is greenhouse gas.
It is predicted that the Earth’s temperature will increase by 3 degree Celsius and sea levels will rise by 65cm before 2100.
Prof. Jean Jouzel said though people were making efforts to prevent global warming, such as the agreement to keep global temperature increases well below 2 degrees Celsius this century by 195 nations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), we’re still a long way from the objective.
“We’ve already used 70 percent of our carbon budget,” he said.
If nothing is done, impacts like ocean acidification, drought, flood, climate refugees, etc. will be the consequence, the professor highlighted.
Meanwhile, Tran Thuc, senior research at the Vietnam Institute of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change under the Ministry of Natural resources and Environment also sounded an alarm about climate change in Vietnam.
According to him, from 1958 – 2014, the average temperature in Vietnam had increased 0.62 degrees Celsius, while rainfall had increased in the South (6.9 percent - 19.8 percent).
Also, the number of hot days had increased significantly by up to 34 days during one decade.
The number of typhoons and floods has also increased. Between 1981 and 1990, Vietnam suffered 8 flash floods nationwide, while this number was up to 182 between 2001 and 2013.
The water level at all gauging stations had a tendency to increase by 2.45mm/year, including 1993 to 2014 which had a tendency to increase by 3.34mm/year.
The story of health
Besides the consequences of natural disasters, climate change seems to have a direct relationship with human health, especially the increasing risk of vector-borne diseases.
Robert Sebbag, Vice President of French multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi -Aventis said Europe had discovered the Zika virus, similar to the Americas and other countries with pathogens able become outbreaks at anytime and anywhere.
They are derived from climate change, Sebbag said.
Talking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Advisor to the World Health Organization in Vietnam Socorro Escalante agreed that there is a relationship between climate change and the increased of risk of vector-borne diseases like malaria or dengue.
If forests are destroyed and mosquitoes lose their homes, they will move to the city, and increase the risk of vector-borne diseases, she explained.
Another issue around climate change in Vietnam is its impact to vulnerable comminutes.
“There are currently 18 provinces hit by drought and more than 1.7 million people are affected,” she said. “One of the impacts is the lack of clean water for those people to use in sanitary toilets, or to clean their foods and to wash.”
“It leads to the risk of illnesses like diarrhea,” she said. “In addition, if people in drought-hit regions cannot continue living there and they have to move to other places, they have to confront adapting to new places and new diseases.”
Meanwhile, though he admitted climate change could increase the number of mosquitoes which are sensitive to temperature, Jean-François Bach - perpetual secretary of the French Academy of Sciences - said it’s too early to confirm the relationship between climate change and health without further detailed study.
Find out what happens
Sanofi’s Robert Sebbag said it’s very important for scientists to continuously study and discover cures for diseases and new methods of virus resistance using medicines.
WHO official Socorro Escalante also said what Vietnamese scientists should be studying local circumstances, what the trend of diseases is, how they are transmitted, and how to prevent them.
Earlier, speaking at the “Fundamental Science and health” discussion session, she emphasized the importance of scientific inventions, saying WHO will look for solutions, but it urgently needs scientific development and application.
French Academy of Sciences’ Jean-François Bach agreed that Vietnamese scientist’s should focus on studying the cause of disease.
“If Vietnam has a high proportion of cancer, it’s important to know why. Is it genetic, environmental or virus, etc.” he told . “Study, then act.”