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Scientists and economists around the world are teaming up to assess the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on human health and development.

The two-year project, which was launched last week, will look in detail at changing patterns of infectious diseases, extreme weather events, heat waves and air pollution, and impacts on biodiversity.

"While climate change and biodiversity loss are global problems, their debilitating effect on human livelihoods and well-being is most severely felt by the poor in developing countries," said Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, which is collaborating on the initiative with the Harvard Center for Health and Global Environment and the reinsurer Swiss Re.

The biological impacts and financial costs of climate instability are already being felt, according to Paul Epstein, associate director of the Harvard Center. He notes that with continued global warming and more frequent extreme weather, patterns of disease will shift in unexpected ways.

The information gathered through the initiative will help countries to cope with these impacts of climate variability and help protect their ecosystems.

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