Every year, around one million people die of mosquito-borne diseases according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is why mosquitoes are considered one of the deadliest living creatures on the planet — not because they are lethal themselves, but because many of the viruses and parasites they transmit are.
Consider, for example, dengue fever. This mosquito-borne virus is a leading cause of hospitalization and death among children and adults in several countries in Asia and Latin America. In 2016, member states in three of the six WHO regions reported 3.34 million cases.
In the absence of an effective vaccine for dengue fever, Zika fever, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases, researchers have developed genetic strategies to reduce mosquito populations. One such strategy involves the release into the wild of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes that express a lethal gene — a strategy believed to have little impact on the overall DNA of wild populations of mosquitoes.
As an interdisciplinary group of authors, we generally support technologies that can reduce human disease and suffering. However, given our combined expertise in science, governance and ethics we have concerns that recent decisions to deploy GM mosquitoes have not been made responsibly.
Genetically Modified Mosquitoes
The transfer of new genes from GM organisms to wild or domesticated non-GM populations is a key criticism of GM crops like soybean and corn. There are concerns that the introduction of GM genes into non-target species could have negative consequences for both human and environmental health.
Oxitec, a company that spun out of research at Oxford University in the early 2000s, developed and trademarked GM Friendly™ mosquitoes (also known as strain OX513A of Aedes aegypti). These male GM mosquitoes have what the company describes as a "self-limiting" gene, which means that when these so-called friendly mosquitoes mate, their offspring inherit the self-limiting gene which is supposed to prevent them surviving into adulthood.
In theory, when these mosquitoes are released in high numbers, a dramatic reduction in the mosquito population should follow.
Changes to the Gene Pool
According to research published by Oxitec researchers in 2015, field trials involving recurring releases of Friendly™ mosquitoes demonstrated a reduction of nearly 95 percent of target populations in Brazil. In these field trials, experiments were not performed to assess whether GM mosquitoes might persist in the wild.
A recent study from the Powell lab at Yale University has since confirmed that some of the offspring of the GM mosquitoes didn't succumb to the self-limiting lethal gene and survived to adulthood. They were able to breed with native mosquitoes and thereby introduce some of their genes into the wild population.
The Yale researchers found that mosquitoes captured at six, 12 and up to 30 months post-release carried DNA from the GM mosquito population, thereby disproving "the claim that genes from the release strain would not get into the general population because offspring would die."
It appears that between five and 60 percent of the captured mosquitoes post-release contained genetic sequences inherited from the Friendly™ mosquitoes. Importantly, the number of mosquitoes identified as still containing DNA derived from GM mosquitoes declined between the 12-month and 27-month capture periods specifically, perhaps indicating that the offspring of GM mosquitoes might be less fit in nature after all. This remains to be shown conclusively.
Unknown Potential Impacts
Meanwhile, the impact of mosquitoes carrying these new genes remains largely unknown. One significant worry is that a new breed of mosquito might emerge that is more difficult to control. These new genes could also potentially alter evolutionary pressures on viruses carried by mosquitoes, like dengue fever, in unpredictable ways. This includes potentially increasing their virulence or changing their host-insect interactions. These are hypothetical risks that have been raised by scientists, and reflect the need for further study.
Thus, like GM soybean or corn, there is legitimate concern about the propagation of new genetic material in wild populations with as yet unknown consequences.
Field trials involving the release of GM organisms are typically designed to evaluate safety and efficacy, to assess possible impact on food networks, and to ensure that there is no (or minimal) undue harm to the environment or human health. Put simply, field trials are meant to assess potential harms associated with genetic technologies and to provide opportunities to minimize these harms before moving forward with more large-scale releases.
This raises two important questions: Given that "around 5 percent or less" of the GM mosquito population was expected to survive, shouldn't Oxitec have made plans to assess the risk of gene transfer to wild populations during their initial trials? And shouldn't the Brazilian government have required such an assessment as part of the regulatory approval process, given their awareness of the risk?
Instead, with approval from Brazilian authorities, Oxitec released nearly half a million GM mosquitoes every week into shared environments in Jacobina over a two-year period from 2013 to 2015. This was done without the benefit of adequate risk assessment and without proper public consultation.
Oxitec reports having used leaflets, social media, carnival parades and community meetings to inform the public of their research. Public education is not the same as public consultation and engagement and, in our view, the people living in the vicinity of this release had more than a right to be informed of the plans. They also had a right to participate in relevant decision-making.
On the basis of presumed success in Brazil where mosquito populations were reduced — a consequential reduction in the prevalence of dengue fever has yet to be demonstrated — plans have been made to extend field trials to other jurisdictions, including the Florida Keys in the U.S.
To date, public pushback has temporarily prevented the release of GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. But Oxitec hopes to eventually secure approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to perform field trials and assess release of a second-generation GM mosquito that causes lethality only in female mosquitoes, as another means to collapse wild populations.
Regulating Genetic Modification
In the end, minus the hyperbole and somewhat alarmist reporting of the Yale study (the journal is looking into allegations brought forth by Oxitec of speculative and unsubstantiated claims), the finding that offspring of GM mosquitoes could survive in the wild remains undisputed. This illustrates the importance of careful decision-making and adequate oversight of field trials involving the release of GM organisms. Careful decision-making requires open venues for informed and deliberative public dialogue, engagement and empowerment.
Genetic modification technologies need to be more transparent, as do the scientific processes for evaluating their risks, especially where the rights and needs of affected communities can inform technology development. With more robust and nuanced regulatory processes governing the development and release of GM organisms, it should be possible to benefit from these technologies without harming or disenfranchising the communities that are the intended beneficiaries.
Mosquito-borne illnesses cause immense human suffering, and we should continue to develop technologies to reduce that suffering. At the same time, we must be equally dedicated to designing scientific processes that are safe, ethical and just.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
- FDA Approves Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Combat Zika in ... ›
- Alarm as Florida Set to Begin Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes ›
That is the warning issued by a study from the University of Exeter and the University of California, Berkeley published Friday in the Journal of Agricultural Research. The study found that 13 percent of U.S. honeybee keepers are at risk of losing their colonies from Zika spraying.
"A colony unexpectedly exposed to pesticide spraying for mosquitoes would almost certainly be wiped out," study lead author Lewis Bartlett of the University of Exeter's Center for Ecology and Conservation said in a university press release. "Beekeepers in the U.S. move their colonies around to support farmers, so a beekeeper with all their bees in one area at a given time could lose them all."
The study was prompted by 2016 reports that the spraying of an organophosphate pesticide to stop the spread of Zika in South Carolina killed millions of honeybees. At the time of the spraying, there had been 43 cases of Zika in the state, but none of them had been contracted from in-state mosquitoes. Residents said they were given less than 10 hours notice of the spraying.
Researchers wanted to see if other honeybee colonies could be impacted by similar incidents, so they compared data on the density of honeybee colonies with areas at risk from Zika. They found that the places best for the bees also had favorable conditions for virus that causes brain defects in unborn children. Those regions include Florida, the Gulf Coast and potentially California's Central Valley.
While Florida has a system in place to control mosquitoes while protecting bees and other pollinators, other states are less prepared. This could be devastating both for bees and their keepers.
"At the start of this research we spoke to a beekeeper who was caught unawares and lost all her bees," Bartlett said.
"Beekeeping is a very traditional way of life in the US, with a lot of pride in families who have done it for generations, but many are struggling now.
"Given all the threats facing bees, even a small additional problem could become the straw that broke the camel's back.
"Many beekeepers live on the breadline, and if something like this changes things so beekeeping is no longer profitable, there will be huge knock-on effects on farming and food prices."
Bartlett said he understood concerns about the spread of Zika, but that policymakers should conduct research before they jump into preventative spraying.
While the study only looked at non-native honeybees kept to help farmers, the researchers said that honeybees are actually more resilient than other species, so Zika spraying could also harm other pollinators.The study is also an example of the astounding ripple effects of climate change, which has been linked to the rapid spread of Zika.
Medically reviewed by Anna H. Chacon, M.D.
From eating foods for healthy skin to switching up your morning and routines, taking care of the largest organ in the body can get overwhelming. Recently, vitamin C has grown in popularity in the skincare world — but do the best vitamin C serums live up to the hype?
Vitamin C is not only an essential supplement for your immune system and overall health, but it's also a great skincare ingredient that can help limit inflammation, brighten skin, dull fine lines and wrinkles, fight free radicals, and reduce discoloration and dark spots.
Adding vitamin C to your skincare routine seems like a no-brainer, but before you start shopping for a serum, it's important to be aware that vitamin C is an unstable ingredient. Dermatologists say it's important to find legit and properly formulated vitamin C serums to capitalize on the benefits of the antioxidant. In this article, we'll help you find the right dermatologist-approved vitamin C serum to add to your routine.
Our Picks for the Best Vitamin C Serums of 2021
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
- Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
- Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
- Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
- Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C
Also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant that is present in the formation of collagen and that protects against aging, according to Dr. Anna Chacon, a board-certified dermatologist with MyPsoriasisTeam. A vitamin C serum may be a solid addition to your skincare routine because it has a great safety profile, and it's safe for most skin types.
"Vitamin C serum restores and neutralizes environmental stressors that accelerate signs of aging and can be used morning and evening," Dr. Chacon says. However, she warns, "it does not come with sun protection, so additional use of sunscreen is recommended."
As an antioxidant, vitamin C protects skin cells from being damaged by free radicals from things like UV exposure, vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke. It also hampers melanin production, which can help to lighten hyperpigmentation and brown spots and even out your skin tone.
6 Best Vitamin C Serums
Based on dermatologist recommendations and our market research, the following products are the best vitamin C serums available today.
Best Overall: ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating
Our overall recommendation for the best vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. The product contains 10% vitamin C, which has anti-aging properties and minimizes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and sunspots by promoting collagen production. "I have this in my bathroom," Dr. Chacon says. "It is gentle and non-irritating, and it leaves your skin radiant afterward."
Customer Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars with under 100 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Along with L-ascorbic acid, this serum includes ingredients like Coenzyme Q10 for multi-layer antioxidant protection and plant-derived squalane for added hydration. ZO Skin Health's products are all cruelty-free.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum
Made with plant- and vitamin-derived antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, peptides and CoQ10, Paula's Choice RESIST Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum will help rejuvenate your skin. The formula fights dullness, enhances firmness and reduces the appearance of wrinkles.
Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars with about 300 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This product is paraben-free, fragrance-free and cruelty-free, as it's not tested on animals. The container is 100% recyclable through TerraCycle, and it's formulated and manufactured in the U.S.
Best Budget-Friendly Serum: CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid
CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid offers high value at a reasonable price. It is a hydrating vitamin C serum that's fragrance-free, paraben-free, non-comedogenic and budget-friendly to boot. The formula uses 10% pure vitamin C to prevent free radical damage as well as soothing vitamin B5 and hyaluronic acid to make the skin look smooth and create a moisture barrier for your skin.
Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 20,000 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: Chacon calls CeraVe "a trusted, dermatologist-oriented brand" that comes at drugstore prices, so it's a great choice if you want to try out a budget-friendly vitamin C serum.
Best Cruelty-Free Serum: Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum
Timeless Skin Care's vitamin C serum promotes healthy cell turnover to help minimize the effects of hyperpigmentation and even out your skin tone. According to Dr. Chacon, "vitamin C, E and ferulic acid are all key ingredients that help to brighten skin, building up collagen and evening out tone." This product's formula is non-greasy and lightweight, so it absorbs quickly and clearly into the skin.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 1,700 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The Timeless Skin Care formula is paraben-free, synthetic dye-free, fragrance-free and polyethylene glycol-free. The company doesn't test on animals, and the product is made in the U.S. from natural ingredients. It's also part of the TerraCycle recycling program.
Best Anti-Aging Serum: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment
Using dermatologist-approved ingredients, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is lightweight and helps to firm, smooth, and brighten the skin for a more youthful look. The formula utilizes 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid to protect against environmental damage from things like sunlight, ozone pollution and diesel engine exhaust. Plus, it helps firm the skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 200 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Combination Antioxidant Treatment is one of the best vitamin C serums for anti-aging purposes. It has an oil-like formulation that goes on smoothly and works effectively without clogging pores.
Best Brightening Serum: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is a topical form of vitamin C that's rich in antioxidants to target aging and brighten the skin. It uses a high concentration of L-ascorbic acid as well as hyaluronic acid spheres for skin hydration. The brightening serum helps enhance skin smoothness and radiance without being too harsh. However, to test skin sensitivity, it is always recommended to perform a patch test before a full application.
Customer Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars with over 4,500 Amazon ratings
Why Buy: This vitamin C brightening serum is cruelty-free and vegan and does not contain alcohol, phthalates, gluten, fragrance, nuts, oil, silicone, parabens or sulfates. The moisturizing serum is good for all skin types, including acne-prone skin and dry skin.
FAQ: Best Vitamin C Serums
What vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Our top recommended vitamin C serum is the ZO Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating serum. It is a dermatologist-approved antioxidant powerhouse, yet it is gentle, non-irritating and leaves you with glowing skin.
Should you use vitamin C serum every day?
Dermatologists recommend using vitamin C serum either every day or every other day. After you cleanse and tone your face, use your vitamin c product before applying moisturizer and reef-safe sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Does vitamin C serum really work?
According to dermatologists, the best vitamin C serums work to protect against skin aging. However, if you do not purchase a doctor-recommended product, you run the risk of wasting your money on a low-concentration serum that won't give you any benefits.
What are the drawbacks of vitamin C serums?
Many vitamin C serums on the market, especially cheaper products, have nearly immeasurable concentrations of antioxidants, which makes them ineffective. Additionally, as with any skincare product, some individuals may have reactions to vitamin C serums including itchiness and redness.
Anna H. Chacon, M.D. is a dermatologist and author originally from Miami, Florida. She has authored over a dozen peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and has been published in JAAD, Archives of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology and Cutis.
Climate Crisis Causes Deaths, Stunting and Malnutrition and It’s Going to Get Much Worse, New Report Says
A bleak new report highlights how the climate crisis is responsible for deaths and will cause more in the coming decades, along with malnutrition, stunted growth and lower IQs in children directly impacted by the crisis, as the Guardian reported.
The policy report From Townsville to Tuvalu produced by Global Health Alliance Australia in partnership with Monash University in Melbourne looked at how the climate crisis will affect the Asia Pacific Region, the effect it has already had and it makes recommendations for what the Australian government can do to mitigate its impact.
"There are absolutely people dying climate-related deaths, [especially due to] heat stress right now," said Misha Coleman, executive director of Global Health Alliance Australia, to the Guardian. "During the Black Saturday fires [in Victoria in 2009] for example, we know that people were directly killed by the fires, but there were nearly 400 additional deaths in those hot days from heat stress and heatstroke."
It has also seen a cognitive effect on children who experienced extreme weather events in utero. For example, children born to women who were pregnant during 2011 flooding in Brisbane had, on average, lower IQs, smaller vocabularies and less imagination than their peers at age two.
As the world deals with higher concentrations of greenhouse gasses, the nutritional values of staple crops will decline, leading to stunting, anemia and malnutrition in children, within 10 to 20 years, according to the Guardian.
"What's the future for our children?" said Coleman to the Guardian. "These events are more common, more frequent and not going to become less so in a short amount of time."
The researchers behind the report looked at nearly 120 peer-reviewed articles to piece together the impact the climate crisis will have on the region. The paper pointed out that the spread of rare tropical diseases might become prevalent as the diseases find favorable conditions in Australia, such as the Nipah virus, a bat-borne disease that causes fatal infections in humans and pigs in South East Asia.
The paper also warns that the Australian health care system will be overwhelmed if climate refugees seek help there because nearby countries have inadequate healthcare systems to handle a spike in sickness due to a climate emergency.
The report highlighted a 2018 paper put out by the World Health Organization that predicted "between 2030 and 2050 climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from heat stress, malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea," according to the report. It pointed that the various consequences of the climate crisis will not create new diseases, but will amplify existing ones and overburden health care systems.
The Global Health Alliance Australia paper leaned heavily on the WHO's categories of health risks from the climate crisis, which are:
• Direct impacts from the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather
• Environmentally mediated impacts, including air pollution, less fresh water and changing patterns of disease
• Socially mediated impacts, including undernutrition, mental illness, population displacement and poverty.
The second two bullet points are the insidious dangers that Global Health Alliance Australia says the Australian government should prepare for.
"Severe weather events are causing flooding, particularly in informal settlements in the Pacific, that leads to diseases including diarrhea, that can be very serious and fatal in people, particularly children," said John Thwaites, chair of the Sustainable Development Institute at Monash University, as the Guardian reported.
In addition to Nipah virus, the report warned that mosquitos would spread dengue, chikungunya and zika, as the global temperatures warm and mosquito populations expand their reach. In fact, Q fever is already prevalent in Townsville, a city in northeastern Queensland.
"Q fever is something that is carried by a lot of wild and domesticated animals," said Coleman to the Guardian. "As climate change degrades their habitat through fires and drought, these animals go looking for green grass and fresh water [and] they find themselves on golf courses and on retirees' two-acre blocks."
- 'Black Moms Matter': Increased Heat and Pollution Raise Pregnancy Risks, Especially for Racial Minorities - EcoWatch ›
By Allegra Kirkland, Jeremy Deaton, Molly Taft, Mina Lee and Josh Landis
Climate change is already here. It's not something that can simply be ignored by cable news or dismissed by sitting U.S. senators in a Twitter joke. Nor is it a fantastical scenario like The Day After Tomorrow or 2012 that starts with a single crack in the Arctic ice shelf or earthquake tearing through Los Angeles, and results, a few weeks or years later, in the end of life on Earth as we know it.
Instead, we are seeing its creeping effects now — with hurricanes like Maria and Harvey that caused hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in economic damage; with the Mississippi River and its tributaries overflowing their banks this spring, leaving huge swaths of the Midwestern plains under water. Climate change is, at this very moment, taking a real toll on wildlife, ecosystems, economies, and human beings, particularly in the global south, which experts expect will be hit first and hardest. We know from the increasingly apocalyptic warnings being issued by the United Nations that it will only get worse.
But these early omens of our unstable, hot, wet future can be difficult to wrap our heads around. So Teen Vogue partnered with the team at the nonprofit news service Nexus Media, who developed a timeline predicting how climate change could affect three major U.S. cities over the course of the 21st century. Climate change will look different in different places across the world, but we chose three places with distinct geographic concerns and climate vulnerabilities — to ground all the ominous statistics and headlines in a real sense of place. These are cities you may have visited, or where you may have family, or where you may even live.
According to the research Nexus compiled, St. Louis will see flooding, extreme heat, severe rainfall, and drought in the surrounding farmland. In Houston, on the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes will grow more destructive and temperatures will soar. San Francisco will witness rising sea levels, fierce wildfires, and extreme drought.
This timeline is based on interviews with a dozen climate experts and a review of several dozen scientific studies. The projections assume an average sea level rise of six feet by 2100 — a little more in some places, and less in others — and the business-as-usual emissions scenario, which assumes that we will continue to pollute and use fossil fuels at our current rate.
Rather than a scientific assessment, it is a rigorously researched prediction of what our future could bring unless we come together as a country and as a global community — fast— to address climate change as the crisis it is.
As Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, put it: "The future is not set in stone. Some amount of change is inevitable. It's as if we've been smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for decades, but we don't have lung cancer yet."
"The amount of change that we're going to see — whether it's serious, whether it's dangerous, whether it's devastating, whether it's civilization-threatening — the amount of change we're going to see is up to us," she continued. "It depends on our choices today and in the next few years."
It's starting to get hot. It's now about one degree Fahrenheit warmer in Houston than it was in the second half of the 20th century. Houstonians can expect especially balmy falls this decade, as autumns are warming faster than other seasons in Texas.
Houston knows how much it stands to lose from climate change. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the city, which was supercharged by warm waters in the Gulf. But Houston is also helping to drive the rise in temperature. Several major oil companies and a vast network of oil refineries and petrochemical plants call the city home.
This decade, St. Louis is expected to be more than two degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was, on average, during the latter half of the 20th century. While locals have endured more sweltering summer days, they have felt the change the most during the cold months. Missouri winters are warming faster than summers, springs, and falls.
Warmer air holds more water, which can lead to more severe rainfall. In recent years, rainstorms have pummeled the Midwest and led to widespread flooding across the region. In 2019 in St. Louis, rivers reached near-historic levels, and floodwaters inundated the area around the city's iconic Gateway Arch.
For San Franciscans, the beginning of the decade will feel only a little different from past years. In 2020, it's expected to be less than one degree Fahrenheit warmer in San Francisco than it was, on average, between 1950 and 2000. The change is small, but locals can sometimes feel it in the spring, which is warming faster than the other seasons, or on especially hot days.
But there are new worries for the city. Rising temperatures have fueled ongoing drought in recent years, which has, in turn, led to more wildfires. Fires now burn more regularly across the Sierra Nevada as well as coastal mountain ranges. The flames may ruin plans for weekend getaways to Yosemite or deliver noxious smoke to the Bay Area. And locals may start to reach for air masks as dangerously smoky days become more common.
"We get a lot of the smoke that comes from the wildfires that happen in inland California, and that makes it really hard to breathe the air," said Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who is based in San Francisco. "Last year when there was a massive wildfire hundreds of miles away, San Francisco for a day [ranked among] the worst air quality in the entire world."
By 2030, temperatures are expected to have warmed almost two degrees Fahrenheit in Houston. Seas are expected to have risen a little more than a foot, enough to occasionally flood some low-lying areas outside the city. Warmer waters in the Gulf of Mexico will raise the speed limit for winds during hurricanes and ramp up rainfall during storms.
"Hurricanes are not getting more frequent, but they are getting stronger and bigger and slower," said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. "They're intensifying faster and they have a lot more rain associated with them today than they would have had a hundred years ago."
By 2030, temperatures are expected to have warmed around three degrees Fahrenheit in St. Louis. The kind of rainstorm that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every three years this decade.
"We've seen these record-breaking, devastating floods in the Midwest," said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University. "It's not like they've never had floods before, but the floods are just getting a lot worse and a lot more frequent."
This could mean trouble for local infrastructure. Rivers swell after heavy rains, and the rush of water can weaken bridges by carrying away sediment from around their foundations. This could be a big problem in Missouri, which is home to hundreds of aging bridges, many of which have been deemed deficient. Climate change could mean even more heavy repair costs for taxpayers.
This decade, the rise in temperature is expected to pass two degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco. That may not feel like a lot in the city. But warmer weather is taking a serious toll.
California's drought will get progressively worse this decade, the product of warmer temperatures drying out soil and meager rainfall failing to replace the water lost. Rising temperatures will also yield less snowfall. The snow that does come down will melt in the spring and early summer, depriving the state of a critical source of water in the late summer, when, historically, melting snow has fed streams and rivers.
The snow drought will strain farmers in the Central Valley, while putting pressure on cities to use less water. The water restrictions the state put in place in 2018 will have grown much more severe in the past 12 years. Officials could urge Californians across the state to take shorter showers and stop watering their lawns to cope with the worsening drought.
This decade, sea level rise around Houston is projected to reach two feet, enough to inundate much of nearby Freeport and Jamaica Beach. That extra water will mean that hurricanes, when they strike, will deliver more powerful floods to coastal areas.
"A small and steady rise of the water level elevates a platform for flooding that we've had throughout history," said Maya Buchanan, a sea level rise scientist at Climate Central. "That means larger storm surges."
That's bad news for people who live near the shore. Around half of deaths caused by hurricanes are the result of coastal flooding, and waters tend to inundate poor neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color, which are more likely to lie in flood-prone areas.
In 2040, St. Louis is expected to be four degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was at the end of the last century. While that may sound like a small number, it means big problems for the city. A small uptick in the average temperature could lead to milder winters, stifling summers and changing rainfall.
St. Louis will tend to see wetter springs and drier summers. That means the region will withstand heavier downpours, but it will also endure long stretches without a drop of rain. Despite the growing peril of major flooding, extended dry spells and rising temperatures will dry out the land. Drought will set in in Missouri, endangering farms.
And just remember — it will never be this cool again.
By 2040, sea levels are predicted to rise around one foot, enough to encroach the beaches on the west side of the city and Candlestick Point on the east, popular recreation areas. Parts of San Francisco Airport and Oakland Airport will flood regularly, making air travel in and out of the city more difficult.
Drought will have grown increasingly severe. Forests will dry out, and become vulnerable to bark beetles, which burrow into trees to lay their eggs. Healthy trees can ward off the bugs by covering them in resin — but already struggling trees have no way to protect themselves.
Large parts of forests will die, and the dead trees will become tinder for wildfire. In 2040, fires are expected to burn around twice as much big sections of the Sierra Nevada as they do today. Areas south of San Francisco will also grow more vulnerable to erupting in flames.
By midcentury, temperatures are expected to have warmed more than three degrees Fahrenheit in Houston. Waters in the Gulf of Mexico will have also warmed, fueling more dangerous storms.
In the decades to come, the Gulf will see more category-four and -five hurricanes, like Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Katrina, according to Suzana Camargo, a climate scientist at Columbia University. Warm water is like ammunition for cyclones, arming them with more powerful winds and heavier rains. People might want to think twice before they purchase a home in Houston.
"I think people have to think very carefully how they are going to plan when they want to buy a house," Camargo said, explaining that in the future, cyclones will deliver more flooding to seaside cities and towns.
St. Louis is expected to have heated up by more than five degrees Fahrenheit on average by the middle of the century. Hot weather will dry out soil. Past 2050, the Central Plains, including much of Missouri, can look forward to decades-long drought.
This drought will be especially disastrous for Missouri farmers. Growers will have to take more water out of underground aquifers to feed their crops, drawing down a limited supply of groundwater, often at great cost. This, in turn, could drive up the price of food.
By 2050, temperatures in San Francisco are expected to have risen more than three degrees Fahrenheit. In the second half of this century, changing weather patterns will yield lasting dry spells, leaving much of California to endure long stretches without rain. Around the time someone graduating high school today turns 50, they can expect California to enter a decades-long drought — with disastrous consequences.
Farmers in California will have to draw more and more water from underground. Eventually, they may not be able to grow fruits and vegetables in parts of the state. This will drive up the cost of many foods, such as strawberries, almonds, and lemons.
Snow will also start to disappear from the Sierra Nevada. By 2050, projections say, there will be a third less snow than we see today. San Francisco depends on that snow for its water, and a dry Sierra Nevada could mean a looming water crisis for the city.
The drought will also leave California's forests all the more vulnerable to wildfire — fires that could cover San Francisco in smoke, making it dangerous to go outside.
Where San Francisco residents are expected to move when they're displaced by rising seas..
Local sea level rise, meanwhile, is expected reach three feet during this decade. This will raise the level of Buffalo Bayou, the waterway that stretches through the middle of Houston. The Scholes International Airport in nearby Galveston will sink into the sea, and at high tide, water will flood much of the San Jacinto Battleground, site of the 1836 clash where Sam Houston, the city's namesake, overcame the Mexican Army.
St. Louis is expected hit a six-degrees-Fahrenheit increase in its average temperature this decade. While this might be bad news for humans, it's good for many insects, who love warm weather. Rising temperatures will bring disease-carrying mosquitoes to St. Louis's doorstep. Missourians will have to be more vigilant about their health as the bugs could spread tropical viruses like Zika, dengue, and yellow fever around the warming Midwest.
Climate change will also bring more deer ticks to St. Louis. Because warmer air can hold more water, as temperatures rise, so does humidity — and deer ticks thrive in humid weather. While ticks are little seen in Missouri today, later this century they will fan out across the state, potentially spreading Lyme disease. Those afflicted will endure fever, headache, and fatigue. They may see their joints swell or feel their face droop.
By 2060, temperatures in San Francisco are expected to have risen by more than four degrees Fahrenheit.
Wildfires will burn roughly three times as much of broad swaths of the Sierra Nevada as they do today, laying waste to large stretches of California's pristine forests.
This decade, sea level rise is projected hit two feet. Water will begin to spill over the edges of the Mission Creek Channel, while threatening routine floods around San Francisco's iconic Fisherman's Wharf. Waters will have flooded much of nearby San Rafael, north of San Francisco. To the south, Foster City will be underwater, displacing thousands of residents — many of whom currently work in the tech industry.
By 2070, Houston is projected to be more than five degrees Fahrenheit hotter than at the end of the 20th century. This warming is part of a larger trend that is heating up the planet and melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, raising the sea level near the city.
"As flooding events get more severe, that can impact property values, and that could impact where people decide to live," Buchanan said, explaining that rising seas will drive down the value of homes in low-lying areas.
By this time, waters will have already subsumed much of the coastline from Freeport, south of Houston, all the way to New Orleans. Rising seas will make much of the Gulf coast unrecognizable as the ocean swallows up most of southern Louisiana. Later this decade, sea levels are expected to have risen by four feet.
In 2070, St. Louis is projected to be more than seven degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it was at the end of the last century. Before the decade is through, the city is expected to see eight degrees Fahrenheit of warming. Rising temperatures will have utterly transformed the weather in Missouri, making it virtually unrecognizable to current residents. The city will see around 20 fewer days of frost each year than it does today, as well as around 20 extra days with temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat will be felt most acutely in neighborhoods short on trees and parks.
Outside the city, severe heat will cripple the growth of corn and soybeans at nearby farms. So will drought, which experts say will be worse than at any time in living memory. The state will endure more consecutive days without rain. When it does rain, however, it will pour. Warmer temperatures will produce more extreme rainfall.
By 2070, San Francisco's average temperature is expected to have warmed by more than five degrees Fahrenheit. Drought will be more severe than at any time in living memory. Rising temperatures and diminished rainfall will take a toll on trees around the San Francisco Bay. More and more evergreen forests will die off and grasslands will spring up in their place, fundamentally changing the landscape around the city.
This is what Houston, St. Louis, and San Francisco will feel like in 2080.
By 2080, temperatures are projected to have warmed around six degrees Fahrenheit on average, a dizzying change in the weather that means Houston won't feel like Houston anymore.
The city will grow warmer and wetter. Around 2080, Houston will feel something like Ciudad Mante in Mexico does today, with its warmer, drier winter.
As the climate changes, Houston's native wildlife could start to head north. At the same time, plants and animals that currently make their home south of Houston may start to work their way toward the city.
St. Louis is expected to be nearly nine degrees Fahrenheit warmer by 2080. The temperature will have changed so drastically that St. Louis no longer feels like the same city.
Around 2080, St. Louis will start to feel like Prosper, Texas, does today. This new St. Louis will be hotter and drier. Summer weather will go from balmy to sweltering, and the city will see much less rain during the warm months.
It's not just that St. Louis will feel more like Prosper. It might start to look like it too. Animals that currently live around Prosper could head northward as the climate changes, searching for a new home that feels like their old one. At the same time, the shrubs and grasslands that stretch across north Texas could start to edge their way toward Missouri.
By 2080, the average temperature is expected to have risen by more than six degrees Fahrenheit in San Francisco. The city will start to feel a lot like present-day Los Angeles. The weather will be warmer and drier, much like the current climate in Palos Verdes Estates, a coastal city in the L.A. area.
With less rainfall, many of the trees that make their home in San Francisco will die. At the same time, the smaller, scrubbier plants that make their home in L.A. could migrate toward the city. It's not just that San Francisco will start to feel like L.A., scientists say. It might start to look like it too.
By now, temperatures are projected to have warmed close to seven degrees Fahrenheit, while sea levels will have risen five feet, subsuming the coastline. Much of nearby Galveston is underwater.
It's not just hot days that threaten Houston. Rising temperatures will allow the air to hold more water, increasing humidity — which could be a big problem for public health.
"As humidity rises, it becomes harder and harder for the sweat to evaporate off our skin — and it's that evaporation of sweat that cools our bodies," said Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "So it might only be a temperature reading of 90 degrees, but if you have 60% humidity, it's going to feel hotter than 90 degrees."
Dahl said that Houston will heat up so much that it will be hard to quantify how hot it will feel.
"By the end of the century, Houston would see about three weeks of what we call off-the-charts heat conditions, which are when the combination of temperature and humidity falls above the national weather services heat index scale," she said. "What that means is that we can't even calculate a heat index to reliably warn people about how dangerous it is."
St. Louis is expected to have warmed by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit, a transformational change in the climate of the city. Rising temperatures could provoke a spike in violent crime — when people are hot, research shows, they tend to feel more aggressive.
By the end of the century, St. Louis will endure around 80 days per year where the heat index is above 100 degrees — compared to just 11 days at the end of the 20th century, according to Kristy Dahl, a climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"It's really striking because historically those off-the-charts conditions have only occurred in the Sonoran desert region of the U.S., the California-Arizona border," Dahl said.
In addition to extreme heat, the city will also endure severe drought, punctuated by the occasional supercharged rainstorm. The kind of downpour that currently strikes the Midwest around once every five years will hit around once every year or two. The most severe storms — the kind that currently show up once every 20 years — now arrive once every six or seven years.
Heavy rainfall will lead to flooding, and floodwaters will mix with raw sewage, helping to spread bacteria. Rains will also swamp homes and businesses, offering a place for mold to grow.
By now, San Francisco is projected to have heated up more than seven degrees Fahrenheit on average. The extra heat will mean many people will be spending more time outdoors, potentially leading to a spike in violent crime.
The state will be mired in lasting drought. Wildfires could consume around four times as much of huge sections of the Sierra Nevada as they do today, as well as forests closer to San Francisco, endangering locals.
The Bay Area is expected to have seen more than three feet of sea level rise. The San Francisco and Oakland Airports will be completely underwater. Across the bay, coastal flooding will inundate parts of Alameda. Low-lying areas on the south end of the San Francisco Bay will also be flooded, including some of San Jose.
By the end of this century, temperatures are expected to have warmed close to eight degrees Fahrenheit in Houston. In the summer, Houston will feel something like Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, does today. High temperatures will average over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the warmest months.
By making life harder for workers, severe hotter weather will shrink the economy of the greater Houston area by 6%. Extreme heat will also kill hundreds more people each year. Poorer neighborhoods tend to be warmer, in part because they tend to have fewer trees. People who live in those neighborhoods are also less likely to have air conditioners, which will put them at greater risk.
On top of the heat, Houston is expected to have seen close to six feet of sea level rise by 2100. Waters encroach on the east side of town near the water, where oil refineries and chemical plants could continue to service our catastrophic addiction to oil and gas. Routine flooding of these facilities may cause dangerous explosions and potentially release toxic chemicals into the air.
Much of the city, however, will stay safe from the encroaching sea. That means the Houston could absorb hundreds of thousands of new residents by 2100 — people who were driven from Miami and New Orleans by ever-worsening coastal floods.
By the end of this century, St. Louis is expected to have warmed by roughly 11 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter will scarcely look like winter. Summers will have gone from hot to unbearable.
During the hottest months, it will be so scorching that it will be dangerous to go outside for much of the day. People will depend more on air conditioners to stay cool, leading to bigger electric bills. Elderly people, particularly those who can't afford to run an air conditioner, will face the risk of heat stroke and death.
The intense heat will take an immense toll on the local economy. Farms in Missouri and southern Illinois could see yields cut in half, ruining livelihoods.
In St. Louis itself, experts project that heat will stifle productivity by making it too hot to work. This could help cut the city's economic output by around 8%.
By 2100, San Francisco is expected to have heated up by more than eight degrees Fahrenheit on average. It will be hot and dry. Snow will be hard to find in the Sierra Nevada. By 2100, the mountain range will see two thirds less snow than we see today, depriving San Francisco of a much-needed water source.
Seas will have risen four feet, projections say. Large parts of Alameda will be underwater. Hunters Point will have flooded, as well as much of Mission Bay. And flooding won't be limited to San Francisco.
Sea level rise could flood the homes of 13 million Americans by the end of the century, leading to a massive exodus from many coastal areas. By one estimate, rising seas in places like Oakland, Alameda, and San Mateo could spur close to 300,000 residents to move to inland cities in Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey. It is the poorest neighborhoods that will be the most vulnerable to floods.
Note: This story is based on RCP 8.5, the so-called "business-as-usual" emissions scenario that assumes that Earth will continue to heavily rely on fossil fuels as the global economy grows. Per Nexus Media, "As we are currently doing virtually nothing to stop climate change, RCP 8.5 is a pretty good predictor of what's going to happen over the next couple of decades. Part of that is because it will take a while for the climate to reach a new equilibrium, so even if we stopped polluting now, the planet would continue to warm for decades." It looks at a sea level rise of six feet, on average, globally, based on the findings of this widely-cited 2014 study.
This story originally appeared in Teen Vogue in partnership with Nexus Media. It is republished here as part of EcoWatch's partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.
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If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise until 2080, dengue fever could spread through much of the southeastern U.S. by 2050.
That's one of the findings in a study published in Nature Microbiology Monday on the potential spread of the mosquito-borne disease, which currently kills around 10,000 people per year and sickens 100 million. The study also predicted the disease would expand to higher altitudes in central Mexico, to northern Argentina, to inland Australia, to large coastal cities in eastern China and Japan, to southern Africa and to the West African Sahel.
The study incorporated data on mosquito behavior, urbanization and different climate change scenarios to predict how dengue fever would spread in 2020, 2050 and 2080, The New York Times explained. In the most extreme climate scenario, emissions continue to rise. In another, emissions rise through 2080 and stabilize by 2100 and, in the third, they peak in 2040. In all scenarios the spread of dengue increased, but it decreased slightly between 2050 and 2080 in the lowest-emission scenario.
"This suggests that curbs in emissions and more sustainable socioeconomic growth targets offer hope of limiting the future impact of dengue," the researchers wrote.
The study was unique from previous research in that it did not only focus on how climate change would impact the spread of dengue. It also focused on urbanization. That is because dengue is a disease that thrives and spreads in cities.
"When people hear mosquito-borne disease they think about forest areas. But dengue is very much the disease of the 21st century – it happens in big cities. In big cities you have lots of people moving around very quickly," lead study author and assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Oliver Brady told The Telegraph.
The study found that 2.25 billion more people would be at risk from dengue by 2080, or 60 percent of the world's population. But most of that increased risk would be driven by population growth in areas where the disease is already endemic, not by an expansion in its geographic range.
Out today! -predicting future dengue in a changing world. In short- Spread to Europe and USA more limited than previously predicted, already endemic areas will see the biggest growth in population at risk as they continue to rapidly urbanise https://t.co/v3AZcRdaNY pic.twitter.com/Tn12fUNsI6— Dr. Oliver Brady (@OliverBrady1) June 10, 2019
Much of its future expansion will therefore be in places that have the fewest resources to address it, such as sub-Saharan Africa, which is urbanizing quickly, Brady wrote in a "Behind the Paper" note on the article.
"Our hope is that future research on dengue and climate change can expand to include mitigation strategies for those in endemic areas, in addition to assessing the risk of spread to western nations," Brady wrote.
Dengue fever is transmitted by the Aedes mosquitoes that also carry Zika and chikungunya. It is also called breakbone fever, and symptoms can include fever, joint pain and internal bleeding, according to The New York Times.
"For a healthy individual dengue is an awful experience that you never forget," Eastern Connecticut University associate professor Josh Idjadi, who caught the disease in French Polynesia, told The New York Times. "For infants and elderly and the infirm, they're the ones that are going to be at risk."
There is a vaccine, but it does not work for the majority of people.
'Taking action now by investing in trials of novel vaccines and mosquito control, curbing carbon emissions and planning for sustainable population growth and urbanization are crucial steps for reducing the impact of the virus," study author and University of Washington Health Metrics Sciences Professor Simon I. Hay recommended to The Telegraph.
By Jerome Goddard
When it comes to problems caused by ticks, Lyme disease hogs a lot of the limelight. But various tick species carry and transmit a collection of other pathogens, some of which cause serious, even fatal, conditions.
In fact, the number of tick-borne disease cases is on the rise in the U.S. The range where various species of ticks live in North America may be expanding due to climate change. Researchers continue to discover new pathogens that live in ticks. And new, invasive tick species keep turning up.
In my career as a public health entomologist, I've been amazed at the ability of ticks to bounce back from all the ways people try to control them, including with pesticides. Ticks excel at finding new ecological niches for survival. So people and ticks frequently cross paths, exposing us to their bites and the diseases they carry.
Here are some of the lesser-known, but growing, threats from ticks.
Ticks Can Spread Bacterial Diseases
Certain very small species of bacteria that can cause human diseases, such as rickettsia, ehrlichia and anaplasma, live in ticks. Ticks ingest these bacteria when they drink animals' blood. Then when the ticks take a subsequent blood meal, they pass the bacteria along to the next animal or person they feed on.
Probably the most well known of these bacterial diseases is Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the most frequently reported rickettsial disease in the U.S., with about 6,000 cases each year. The number of diagnoses seems to be increasing nationwide, especially among Native Americans, probably due to exposure on reservations to free-roaming dogs that can carry ticks.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever usually comes with a rash, as on this child.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), CC BY
When people get sick with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, they usually come to a clinic with three things: fever, rash and history of tick bite. They may also report severe headache, chills and muscle pains, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. A skin rash is usually present after a few days, but not always. Mental confusion, coma and death can occur in severe cases. Untreated, the mortality rate is about 20%; and even with treatment, 4% of those infected die.
Not all tick species are effective transmitters of the rickettsia bacteria. Even within the vector species, often only 1% to 5% of ticks in an area are infected. So getting bitten by a tick that passes rickettsia bacteria on to you is like getting stuck with a needle in a haystack. The primary carriers are the American dog tick in the eastern U.S. and Rocky Mountain wood tick in the West. The brown dog tick has also recently been shown to be a vector.
In most tick-borne diseases, the tick needs to feed for some amount of time before any pathogens it is carrying are transmitted to the animal whose blood it is eating. Rocky Mountain spotted fever organisms generally take between one and three hours for transmission to occur, so attached ticks need to be removed quickly. Doctors usually prescribe the antibiotic doxycycline to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which works quite well if the disease is recognized early.
Ehrlichiosis is another bacterial disease transmitted from ticks to people. In the U.S. it's most commonly caused by Ehrlichia chaffeensis bacteria, carried by lone star ticks which are common in the eastern U.S. Ehrlichia bacteria infect a type of blood cell called leukocytes. Human monocytic ehrlichiosis occurs mostly in the southern and south-central U.S.; 1,642 cases were reported to the CDC in 2017.
Ehrlichiosis patients usually have fever, headache, muscle aches and a progressive low white blood cell count. As opposed to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, people get a rash only about 20% to 40% of the time. Doctors usually treat ehrlichiosis with doxycycline.
Another tick-borne bacterial disease to worry about is human granulocytic anaplasmosis. In human granulocytic anaplasmosis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum bacteria infects a type of white blood cell called granulocytes. It mostly occurs in the upper midwestern and northeastern U.S., and the incidence is increasing, with 5,762 cases of human granulocytic anaplasmosis reported to the CDC in 2017.
Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and progressive low white blood cell count. It's the deer tick Ixodes scapularis — famously also responsible for Lyme disease — that transmits the Anaplasma bacteria to humans. There's the unlucky chance that a bite from a deer tick could infect you with both diseases. Again, recommended therapy is doxycycline.
A female Ixodes scapularis tick.
Dr. Blake Layton, MSU, CC BY-ND
Ticks Can Carry Viruses, Too
People usually think of mosquitoes when they think of insect-transmitted viruses – dengue, Zika or West Nile garner a lot of headlines. But ticks can transmit viruses, too.
Scientists have historically grouped tick-borne viral diseases into two categories. One is diseases similar to dengue fever. The main dengue-like viral disease transmitted by ticks in the U.S. is Colorado tick fever, which occurs in mountainous areas of the West.
The other group of tick-borne diseases resemble mosquito-borne encephalitis. Most of these illnesses, characterized by brain inflammation, are not found in the U.S. Powassan encephalitis is the one that is, occurring in the northeastern U.S. and adjacent regions of Canada.
Powassan is a relatively rare but serious human disease, characterized by sudden onset of fever with temperature up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, along with convulsions. Brain inflammation is usually severe, with vomiting, respiratory distress and prolonged fever.
Fewer than 100 cases of Powassan have been reported in North America, with about half of them fatal. Its incidence seems to be increasing; there were 34 cases of Powassan reported during 2017. POW is maintained in a natural cycle when ticks — primarily Ixodes cookei — infect animals with the virus via their bites. Then these infected animals may serve as what scientists call disease reservoirs, infecting new ticks when they feed on their blood.
Tiny larval lone star ticks next to a penny.
In the last decade, researchers have found additional new tick-borne viruses in the U.S. About 30 cases of Heartland virus have thus far been identified. It's associated with the lone star tick and has been recognized in Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Tennessee.
A few cases of a new Thogotovirus called Bourbon virus have been identified in the Midwest and southern U.S. The lone star tick may be the vector of Bourbon virus as well.
A Food Allergy Triggered by a Tick Bite
Maybe the most bizarre threat from ticks is the "red meat allergy" scientists have recently traced back to tick bites. People can become allergic to eating meat when a tick's saliva passes on the carbohydrate galactose-α-1.3-galactose it had previously picked up in a blood meal from an animal. If prone to allergies, the person can get sensitized to that alpha-gal molecule that's found in animal blood and other tissues.
Then days or weeks later, he or she may develop hives, swollen skin and lips, or even life-threatening anaphylactic shock three to six hours after eating red meat. Meats containing alpha-gal include beef, pork, lamb, squirrel, rabbit, horse, goat, deer, kangaroo, seal and whale. People who become sensitized to alpha-gal may still eat chicken, turkey and fish.
Overall, people should be aware of what tick-borne diseases are present in their area and use personal protection techniques whenever outdoors in tick-infested areas. Remember that ticks often come into close contact with people via pet dogs or cats. It's a good idea to inspect yourself for ticks after being outdoors in tick-infested areas. Reducing the number of tick bites and the amount of time ticks remain attached can go a long way to protecting you from tick-borne diseases.
Invasive Tick Spreads to Ninth State, CDC Warns of 'New and Emerging Disease Threat' https://t.co/9r4yqpJvxJ— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) December 3, 2018
Jerome Goddard is an extension professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, entomology and plant pathology at Mississippi State University.
Disclosure statement: Jerome Goddard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
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By Marlene Cimons
Mosquitoes are unrelenting killers. In fact, they are among the most lethal animals in the world. When they carry dangerous viruses or other organisms, a bite can be unforgiving. They cause millions of deaths every year from such infectious diseases as malaria, dengue, Zika, chikungunya, yellow fever and at least a dozen more.
But here's the really bad news: climate change is expected to make them even deadlier. As the planet heats up, these insects will survive winter and proliferate, causing an estimated billion or more new infections by the end of the century, according to new research.
"Plain and simple, climate change is going to kill a lot of people," said biologist Colin J. Carlson, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgetown University's biology department, and co-author of the study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. "Mosquito-borne diseases are going to be a big way that happens, especially as they spread from the tropics to temperate countries."
The study predicted an amenable climate could prompt some of these new cases within regions not previously regarded as vulnerable, including the U.S. These viruses can result in volatile outbreaks when conditions are right, as was the case with Zika. "We've known about Zika since 1947, and we watched it slowly spread around the world until 2015, when it arrived in Brazil and suddenly we had an explosive epidemic on our hands," Carlson said.
"Chikungunya has done something not too different from that," he added. "These viruses proliferate quickly in populations that don't have any immunity — and we're very scared about that. If you only have one month that's warm enough for outbreaks, the question is: 'how much damage you can do…?' For viruses like these, it's a lot."
The study underscores the growing evidence that climate change is having — and will continue to have — a deleterious impact on global health, not only from the direct effects of extreme weather events like heat waves and flooding, but also because mosquitoes thrive in warm temperatures and carbon dioxide, encouraging them to flourish and spread disease. Rising temperatures also are causing many to migrate to new locations.
"This is a very important forward-looking report," said Robert T. Schooley, an infectious diseases expert at the University of California, San Diego, and editor of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, who was not involved in this study. "Understanding in as much detail as possible the risks we face as we move toward a warmer planet is essential. Mosquitoes are able to spread blood-borne pathogens faster than epidemiologists can track an epidemic. There are many one-way doors through which we will go as the planet warms. The spread of mosquitoes and other vectors that can transmit multiple pathogens is an important one that those who don't think climate change is a serious problem should ponder."
The research team, also led by Sadie J. Ryan, of the University of Florida's emerging pathogens institute and associate professor of medical geography, looked what would happen to the two most common disease-carrying mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, as temperatures increase during the coming decades. It found that global warming will expose almost all of the world's population to mosquitoes at some point in the next 50 years. Also, there likely will be year-round transmissions in the tropics and seasonal risks almost everywhere else, along with a greater intensity of infections, according to the study. Moreover, shorter, warmer winters will mean more mosquitoes will survive.
"Where the number of temperature-suitable months of the year increase, so too will the winter months decrease, lowering the threshold for overwintering survival of the mosquitoes," Ryan said. "We already have evidence, for example, in New England, that tire piles can provide sufficiently ambient overwintering habitat already for albopictus, by virtue of retaining pooled water that doesn't get too cold. With fewer months at those very low temperatures, the pressure on survival is lessened, and more overwintering mosquitoes will make it to the next season."
Humidity and water are crucial for vector breeding.
The scientists' goal was to better understand what increasing temperatures would mean for the handful of viruses that Aedes mosquitoes spread. "We used a model of virus spread at different temperatures to mark out where in the world these viruses might be over time, and used climate models to map people at risk now and in the future, that is, 2050 and 2080," Carlson explained. "This study is a bit of a numbers game: with 7 billion people on Earth, who's most at risk now? Who's at risk in a generation? We don't know where mosquitoes will be in the future. What we can do is say where they might be able to transmit viruses if they show up."
The burden on developing countries, already hard hit, likely will increase, especially in the East African portion of sub-Saharan Africa, "one of the top regions to experience increases in people at risk," Ryan said. "These are regions in which we tend to focus on malaria and malaria control … However, we know that there is also dengue circulating in these regions. It is essential to think about surveillance of these diseases now. This is a part of the world that will be facing the intersection of multiple vulnerabilities under climate change, with underfunded infrastructure to manage multiple health impacts."
Regions most impacted by Dengue worldwide, 2015.
Dengue, which causes high fever, headache, and joint pain, is the most common vector-borne viral disease in the world, with up to 100 million infections and 25,000 deaths annually, and, in recent years, has appeared in the U.S. It caused an epidemic in Hawaii in 2001, as well as a cluster of cases in Florida about ten years ago, with additional sporadic infections since then. It also has shown up with increasing frequency along the Texas-Mexican border.
The 2009 Florida cases, in fact, were the first dengue cases acquired in the continental U.S. — outside of the Texas-Mexico border — since 1945, and the first locally transmitted cases in Florida since 1934. "We've seen dengue showing up in Hawaii and Florida, then we saw Zika arrive in Florida and really grab public attention," Ryan said. "Because Aedes aegypti is such a globalized mosquito, the potential for it to facilitate new outbreaks of many diseases is high."
Often, cases that arise in the U.S. typically result after Americans travel and are infected abroad. Once they return home, a local mosquito bites them and acquires the virus. It then can transmit it to others. "Travelers overseas can bring back pathogens that can establish in local mosquito populations," Ryan said. "This potential is a very real issue."
Estimated potential range of Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus in the U.S. Maps do not represent risk for spread of disease, 2017.
There are several thousand species of mosquitoes, but only a few transmit disease. Anopheles mosquitoes carry the parasites that causes malaria and filariasis — also called elephantiasis — and the virus that causes encephalitis. Culex mosquitoes carry encephalitis, filariasis, and the virus that causes West Nile, while the two Aedes species studied in this paper transmit the viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis.
"We've only managed to capture the uncertain futures for two mosquitoes that spread a handful of diseases — and there's at least a dozen vectors we need this information on," Carlson said. "It's very worrisome to think how much these diseases might increase, but it's even more concerning that we don't have a sense of that future. We have several decades of work to do in the next couple years if we want to be ready."
He believes that climate mitigation could save millions of lives, "but I also don't want us to fall into the trap of mitigating climate change just to keep dengue and Zika in the tropics, and out of the U.S. and Europe," he said. "Facing something as massive as climate change gives us a chance to rethink the world's health disparities, and work towards a future where fewer people die of preventable diseases like these. Facing climate change and tackling the burden of neglected tropical diseases go hand-in-hand."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Bill McKibben
Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a "back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto." That's language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right's most influential spokesman on climate change.
Ebell's complaint (and that of the rest of the Right) is that the set of proposals to address climate change and economic inequality put forth last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey would do too much, and cost too much. Indeed, he describes the Green New Deal this way: "It calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, 'upgrading all existing buildings', and replacing our vehicle fleet with electric cars and more mass transit. And turning our energy economy upside down must be accomplished while ending historic income inequities and oppression of disadvantaged groups." All of which sounds good not just to me, but to most people: Polling for the Green New Deal is through the roof, especially among young people so ably organized by the Sunrise Movement.
But even if ending historic oppression doesn't catch your fancy, it's not a return to the Dark Ages.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit: Survivors dying in the convention center of a modern American city, locals organizing a makeshift "navy" to try to pluck people from rooftops after levees collapsed.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, when most of the island was literally dark for months as workers struggled to rebuild power lines.
A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in California last fall, when old people burned to death in their cars while stuck in traffic jams trying to flee deadly wildfires.
And that's just the United States. Around the world now we're seeing climate change help ignite diabolical civil war in places like Syria, where the fiercest drought in the history of what we used to call the Fertile Crescent has driven millions of farmers off their land. We're watching the rapid spread of diseases such as zika via the wings of insects whose range expands as climate warms. Studies have demonstrated that, after years of decline, starvation and child labor are now on the rise as the result of climate stress.
That's what a modern Dark Ages looks like.
What the future looks like is electric cars, to use one of Ebell's examples. They outperform internal combustion vehicles by every metric: They move more nimbly, they cost less to own and operate, they break down less often because there are fewer moving parts.
What the future looks like is mass transit. Visit Europe and ride on the trains for a few days and then explain how much more modern it is to sit in traffic jams in American exurbia.
What the future looks like is "upgrading all existing buildings," because it's now easy to do. Example after example shows that technology like, say, air-source heat pumps don't just cut carbon, they cut heating bills, making them affordable from day one.
We're against these things because—why again?
That better future doesn't come for free—but it costs pennies on the dollar compared to the future Ebell and his Beltway ilk apparently accept, the one where you have to start moving all the residents of Miami, the one where fire season never stops, the one where growing wheat becomes a chancy proposition. And if you think these political conservatives prefer a less costly plan, think again: When Barack Obama proposed the mighty-modest Clean Power Plan to reduce the use of coal-fired power plants, Ebell called it "illegal."
What Ebell and his colleagues prefer is—nothing. It's sticking with coal and gas and oil while the global temperature rises another degree and another and another. Forget the Dark Ages merely 1,500 years ago—Ebell would set Earth back to the interglacial Eemian era, 130,000 years ago. Or maybe the Eocene-Paleocene Thermal Maximum, 55 million years ago.
It's very clear that conservatives have one plan for dealing with the popularity of the Green New Deal: scaring the hell out of people. And it's very clear that they have one big problem: The hell they're building through inaction is a lot scarier than "upgrading all existing buildings."
Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.
Turns out, coconut oil fatty acids have strong repellency and long-lasting effectiveness against bloodsuckers and disease-carriers such as mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and bed bugs, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study published in Scientific Reports.
In some cases, the all-natural compounds worked even better than DEET, the synthetic active ingredient used in many widely used repellent products.
It's important to note that "coconut oil itself is not a repellent," lead researcher and entomologist Junwei Zhu emphasized in a press release. Rather, it's the coconut oil-derived free fatty acid mixture—lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid as well as their corresponding methyl esters—that showed strong repellency against blood-sucking insects, the researchers found.
When the researchers encapsulated these coconut fatty acids into a starch-based formula, field trials showed it could protect cattle against stable flies for up to 96 hours or 4 days. To compare, DEET was only 50 percent effective against stable flies, while the coconut oil compound was more than 95 percent effective.
As for bed bugs and ticks, DEET lost its effectiveness after about three days, while the coconut oil compound lasted for about two weeks, the study showed.
Coconut oil fatty acids also provided more than 90 percent repellency against mosquitoes—including Aedes aegypti, the primary species responsible for spreading Zika, dengue, yellow fever and other diseases. The formula showed strong repellency against mosquitoes when higher concentrations of the compounds were topically applied.
The lab tests also determined that coconut oil compounds were effective against biting flies and bed bugs for two weeks and had lasting repellency against ticks for at least one week.
The press release noted: "Using repellents is one of the most efficient ways to prevent disease transmission and discomfort associated with insect bites. For more than 60 years, DEET has been considered the gold standard in insect repellents—the most effective and long-lasting available commercially. However, increasing regulations and growing public health concerns about synthetic repellents and insecticides like DEET have sparked interest in developing plant-based repellents that are more effective and longer lasting."
Some people refuse to use DEET and turn to folk remedies or plant-based repellents. Most currently available plant-based repellents work for only a short period, Zhu noted.
These coconut oil-derived compounds offer longer-lasting protection than any other known natural repellent against insect blood-feeding, according to Zhu.
Protect Yourself From Disease-Carrying Ticks, Mosquitoes With EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents @ewg @naturalrem… https://t.co/fZN6czlPIk— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1531845911.0
- New Tick Species Spreads in U.S. for First Time in 50 Years ›
- 6 Things You Should Know About Bug Repellent - EcoWatch ›
China said the controversial parts would now be allowed to be used for medicine and research at certified hospitals. The government further said the parts would only be sourced from farmed animals, but conservationists say that it is hard to tell whether parts come from legal farming or illegal poaching.
"With this announcement, the Chinese government has signed a death warrant for imperiled rhinos and tigers in the wild who already face myriad threats to their survival," Humane Society International wildlife program and policy senior specialist Iris Ho said in a statement. "It sets up what is essentially a laundering scheme for illegal tiger bone and rhino horn to enter the marketplace and further perpetuate the demand for these animal parts. This is a devastating blow to our ongoing work to save species from cruel exploitation and extinction, and we implore the Chinese government to reconsider."
SHOCK expressed by @HSIGlobal as #China lifts 25-year-old ban on #tiger bone and #rhino horn trade… https://t.co/Y8bj49gCde— HSI United Kingdom (@HSI United Kingdom)1540839562.0
The are currently only 3,900 tigers and 30,000 rhinos left in the wild, and poaching is the greatest threat to the endangered species.
Tiger bones and rhino horns are both valued for their use in traditional Chinese medicine, but no data has confirmed their health benefits. The World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies issued a statement in 2010 saying there was no proof that tiger bone had medicinal properties, CNN reported. The group also removed both tiger bone and rhino horn from its list of approved treatments, National Geographic reported.
Environmentalists are not entirely sure what prompted Monday's reversal, but think it could be related to the growing number of tiger farms in the country.
"We've been concerned for a long time about the tiger farms in China and the increasing numbers of farms there," World Wildlife Fund director of wildlife policy Leigh Henry told National Geographic. "Captive tigers are incredibly expensive to feed and care for, so as these numbers grew, so did pressure on the Chinese government to allow a regulated trade in tiger products. China's decision is what many of us have feared for over a decade."
As of 2013, the Environmental Investigation Agency said there were at least several thousand tigers at hundreds of farms in the country, and reports have indicated that China is importing rhinos for farming as well.
- 1,000+ Rhinos Poached in South Africa for Fourth Straight Year ›
- World's Last Remaining Tigers Live Under Severe Threat of Extinction ›
By Joyce Sakamoto and Shelley Whitehead
Mosquitoes, long spreaders of malaria and yellow fever, have more recently spread dengue, Zika and Chikungunya viruses, and caused epidemic outbreaks, mainly in U.S. territories. The insects are also largely responsible for making West Nile virus endemic in the continental U.S.
Ticks, which are not insects but parasitic arthropods, actually cause more disease in the U.S. than mosquitoes do, accounting for 76.51 percent of total U.S. vector-borne disease cases. These include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and newer diseases as well.
Why the uptick in vector-borne disease, and more importantly, how can we protect ourselves from potentially serious diseases? As researchers of these types of diseases, we have some answers.
Blood: The High Cost of Living
Both mosquitoes and ticks transmit disease-causing pathogens through bites.
Only the female mosquito takes a blood meal to make eggs, but almost all life stages of ticks need blood to survive.
Although mosquitoes were first demonstrated to have the ability to transmit diseases in 1889, mosquitoes have been transmitting diseases for far longer. Written records as early as 2700 B.C. suggest malaria plagued humans in China.
The first suspected dengue outbreak occurred in the early 1600s, but it took three centuries for the first three mosquito-borne diseases—malaria, dengue and yellow fever—to invade the Americas. Yet, in the past two decades alone, we've experienced a wave of three more mosquito-borne diseases—West Nile, Chikungunya and Zika viruses. This marked increase in disease spread is due to several factors, including advances in air and water travel and warming temperatures.
The High Cost of International Travel and Trade
The international tire trade has made Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, a global traveler. This mosquito gains passage on cargo ships and gets unlimited access to man-made containers, which it needs for breeding, in the thousands of tires on board these ships. Rainwater collecting in the tires are ideal breeding sites. Even though it is not a major vector of dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses, this invasive species is still especially dangerous. It is able to outcompete most other mosquito species that live in similar habitats.
We humans serve as hosts for many vector-borne diseases, and our own movement can aid transmission. We can hop on a plane and be in a different country within hours. Diseases once quarantined to other regions of the globe can now be easily transported within an infected human. Some people don't even realize they are sick. Researchers have estimated that up to 80 percent of individuals infected with Zika virus are symptomless. Yet, if the right vector feeds on a symptomless but infected person, transmission can still occur.
Increased climate fluctuations, largely due to human activity, can also affect how vector-borne diseases spread. Warmer climates may allow mosquitoes to survive in areas previously too cold to support them.
Predicting the outcome of warming on overall vector populations can be difficult. If, for example, summer in the deep Southeast becomes too hot and dry for mosquito development, peaks in transmission and mosquito numbers could shift to the fall. Higher temperatures may shorten the time it takes for pathogens to develop within mosquitoes, so mosquitoes may become infectious faster and transmit pathogens sooner.
Five percent of 900 tick species are known to transmit disease-causing microorganisms. Because 38 percent of all tick species have been known to bite humans, researchers will likely find more tick-borne diseases. Since 2004, there have been nine new vector-borne diseases described in the U.S., and seven of these are tick-transmitted, including the two potentially fatal Bourbon and Heartland viruses.
Most, or 82 percent of tick-borne disease cases, are Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, and transmitted by the blacklegged, or deer, tick. Cases of Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and ehrlichiosis have increased two-and-a-half to six-and-a-half fold.
Tick-borne diseases may be rising due to global travel, animal transport, habitat fragmentation and changing climate. Climate change is correlated with range expansion of several important tick species. Ticks previously limited by cold winters are now becoming established farther north. In response to the arrival of Lyme disease to Canadian soil, the Public Health Agency of Canada responded with a Federal Framework on Lyme Disease focused on disease surveillance, education and awareness, and best practices for control, prevention and treatment of Lyme disease.
What Can You Do?
To lower your risk of transmission from mosquitoes:
- Check backyards for anything that could hold water and empty such vessels. This includes children's toys, bird baths, empty soda cans and flower pots.
- Use mosquito repellents that are EPA approved. Avoid natural repellents that haven't been verified for their effectiveness.
To prevent tick bites:
One sure way to prevent tick bites is to avoid suitable habitats for ticks, but this isn't always possible. Large-scale habitat control or acaricide (tick-killing) treatment of wildlife, though possible, can be difficult or not cost-effective for homeowners. The best preventative measures are:
- Use CDC-recommended repellents such as DEET or picaridin.
- Shower and do a thorough tick check.
Tick checks are absolutely crucial. People usually follow this routine after going outdoors, but sometimes forget. And they often avoid places that ticks love, such as between your legs. Hard-to-reach areas are prime real estate for blood-feeding parasites that don't want to be dislodged, so make sure to check: the hairline (especially on children), torso, belly button and groin. If necessary, get assistance or a mirror and a bright light.
If you find an embedded tick, correctly dislodge it with fine-tipped tweezers, grasping the part closest to the skin and pulling straight up. Do not burn, squeeze, twist or smother the tick, since this may cause it to regurgitate. Gross-out alert: Any pathogens they have in their saliva can then be dumped into the bite site.
After removal, keep the tick for identification; different species transmit different pathogens. Finally, see a doctor after finding an embedded tick or if you think you have been bitten. In addition to getting medical attention, your data will be added to the national list of reported tick-borne diseases.
The CDC has several pages dedicated to vector-borne disease control and prevention. Local state health departments, general practitioners and veterinarians will also have recommendations for prevention, treatment and vector control. Talk to your veterinarian about repellents or agents that will kill mites called acaricides for pets, since some can be toxic to cats.
#EPA Approves Release of Mosquito-Killing #Mosquitoes in 20 States https://t.co/FYN3EBTLz7 @SierraClub @GMWatch… https://t.co/kMCr7jjeGh— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1510163765.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
By Rhea Suh
A widening madness threatens the world, only one thing can avert catastrophe, and we're running out of time.
That's no Hollywood action film trailer. It's the sobering and all-too-real warning sounded by the world's top climate scientists in an authoritative report released this week. We can still prevent runaway climate disaster, they conclude, but only by taking "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented" action now to shift to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future. We can do this, the report says, but we have about a decade—tops—to get it right.
In a tragic reminder of the urgency we face, the people of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas are grappling with the aftermath of yet another unexpectedly powerful hurricane. Many factors combine to create a storm like Michael; however, we do know that warming oceans and air pack more energy and moisture into a storm, setting the stage for greater damage when they reach our shores, in yet another indicator of the growing dangers of climate disruption.
"Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet," states the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations body. It's the work of nearly 100 climate experts drawing on more than 6,000 peer-reviewed studies from scientists worldwide.
Yes, we've seen similar reports before. This one, though, uses the most current science to draw a stark line between climate threats we can manage and runaway destruction we won't be able to reverse. The difference comes down to whether we can hold global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Whether we succeed will be determined by what we accomplish between now and 2030. There's no time left to squander.
To no one's surprise, this urgent call to action fell on deaf ears at the White House. President Trump is doing all he can to accelerate the growing dangers of climate change and leave our kids to pay the price. He's working to roll back common sense standards to clean up our dirty power plants and our cars and trucks, the biggest sources of the dangerous carbon pollution that's driving climate change. He's diminishing the role of science in protecting the environment and public health. And he's working to withdraw U.S. participation in the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.
That's not leadership. It's a betrayal, frankly, of the public trust and an abdication of the duty we have to leave future generations a better world. And it's not what the American people want, not when 64 percent of us expect our government to do more, not less, to fight climate change.
Fortunately, decision makers in businesses, cities and states across the country are singing a different tune. Just last month, more than 4,000 of these leaders and activists from around the world gathered in San Francisco to rally around a historic slate of actions to dramatically advance a global effort to meet climate change head-on.
True leaders understand what's at stake. They have a vision for confronting climate change. And they're putting policies in place to accelerate the shift away from the dirty fuels that are driving this global scourge and toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future.
That starts with improving energy efficiency, so we do more with less waste. It means building, right here in our country, some of the best all-electric and hybrid vehicles anywhere. And it means getting more clean, homegrown American power from the wind and sun.
By doing those things and shifting away from coal-fired power plants to cleaner energy sources, we've cut our carbon footprint more than 14 percent since 2005 while our economy has grown 21 percent in real terms.
The shift to a clean energy economy, by the way, has created well-paying jobs for 3.2 million Americans, nearly three times the number of people working to produce coal, oil and gas and to staff the power plants that burn those fuels.
By building on clean energy progress and accelerating these gains, we can cut our carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. The new report from the IPCC makes clear why we need to do that.
A century of increasingly intensive fossil fuel use has already raised the average global temperature, land and sea, by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why, in this century alone, we've seen 17 of the 18 hottest years since global record-keeping began in 1880.
The results are already reshaping our world. Seas are rising. Croplands are turning to desert. We're losing entire species at the fastest rate since the dinosaurs disappeared 60 million years ago. The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Wildfires, storms and floods are raging.
The reason is that burning coal, oil and gas has raised the level of carbon dioxide, a powerful earth-warming gas, in the planet's atmosphere. It's up nearly 45 percent over a little more than a century. Nearly half the increase has occurred since 1980, and we're continuing to raise it faster than at any other time in the past 800,000 years.
That has already baked in more warming to come. Since 1970, in fact, the global average temperature has been rising at a rate of 1.7 degrees Celsius per century. We have to slow that down, in order to hold total warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. Here's the difference between 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming and 2 degrees:
- Losing 70 percent of the world's tropical ocean reefs vs. losing pretty much all of them
- Experiencing life-threatening heat waves every five years that affect 14 percent of the world's people vs. 37 percent
- More than half of habitat becoming uninhabitable for 4 percent of the world's vertebrate animals vs. 8 percent
- The disappearance of Arctic sea ice one summer per century vs. one summer every decade.
The IPCC report also highlights the intersection of sustainable development and global justice. Just as the benefits of industrialization have favored some nations over others, the world's poor are paying the highest price for climate disruption. Scores of millions of people in low-income countries already struggle with food scarcity and forced migration that contribute to regional instability and brutal poverty.
We know that number is going to rise as we approach 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming as early as 2030. If we go to 2 degrees of warming, hundreds of millions more people will suffer, as withering drought and blistering heat take a growing toll on livestock and crops like rice, maize and wheat across Africa, Southeast Asia and South America; as freshwater sources become depleted or dry up; and as mosquitoes widen their range, spreading diseases like dengue fever, malaria and the Zika virus.
The science is clear. We must move away from fossil fuels and transition to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future—and do so quickly—or we'll condemn our children to a world of widening damage and growing peril.
Generations from now, when our children's children's children look back on this report, they will know we understood the threat. They will know that we were warned. They will know us by how we respond.
100+ Candidates for Congress Want to Win in 2018 on a Platform of Decisive Climate Action https://t.co/qda6zRjXZ1… https://t.co/VfDCIcYHrL— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515609347.0