Climate change is already beginning to wreak havoc upon the planet. In the short term, we’re facing more winter storms, miserably hot summers, and a longer allergy season. In the long term, entire coastlines will likely disappear, threatening communities and wildlife.
On a more local level, experts say the US will be unrecognizable in 100 years.
But just how is all of this affecting you — your state, your coastline — right now?
A recent report from the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health reveals that different geographic regions in the US are facing a range of effects, many of which are already taking shape today. Some of them are as geographically specific as to affect only one state.
Check out how your area stacks up:
Here are a few of the changes the report outlines:
Heat, heat, heat
Climate change lengthens summer months and makes them hotter and more humid. During these episodes, it’s more likely that people will suffer heat-related illness like heat stroke or dehydration. People most at risk include those who works outdoors, student athletes, pregnant women, and people without access to air conditioning.
Some medications, including antipsychotics, also interfere with our body’s natural ability to regulate its temperature, so people using these drugs are also at a heightened risk.
Bugs and more bugs
Shifting regional climates are allowing many diseases spread by insects like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas to flourish beyond their present confines.
The mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, for example, thrive in warm, moist conditions that are becoming more common around the US.
The problem may be particularly bad along the nation’s southern border, according to a report published June 19 in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Researchers documented a recent uptick in those states in the number of counties reporting evidence of the mosquitoes that can spread chikungunya, dengue, and Zika viruses. Compared with the previous year, the number of counties reporting one species of the critters rose 21% and the number of counties reporting another species of the bugs rose 10%. The states identified in the report included California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and others.
Here’s a map from the report illustrating new reported cases of the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito. Black dots indicate a new record for the county.
Lyme disease-carrying ticks have also expanded their range to more northern and western regions of the country, according to the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health report.
Droughts, wipe-outs, and floods like Hurricane Sandy have become increasingly common. As we saw with Sandy, these storms can have a devastating impact on infrastructure including public transit and electricity, interfering with access to health care facilities.
Allergy seasons are already getting worse as a result of air pollution. Why? Carbon dioxide, one of the primary drivers of climate change, makes plants grow faster and increases the amount and potency of their pollen. Rising temperatures also lengthen allergy season, and drier, warmer conditions increase wildfire risk, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.
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