When you consider what a feat it is to willfully ignore mounting scientific evidence that global warming is affecting the world, climate change deniers are almost admirable. We say "almost," because as we continue to argue over whether turning our planet into a colossal dutch oven by spewing toxic chemicals into the air is bad, climate change is slowly compiling a kaleidoscope of unexpected ways to make all of our lives a living hell.
So the outdoors is slowly becoming lethal. Big deal. Statistics like that won't convince bigwigs to take action, because they'll either be dead or safe in their ivory towers by the time any real climate change damage starts being done. However, the effects of global warming are creeping into their corporate headquarters and slowly poisoning them to the brink of stupidity.
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Recent studies have shown that people who work office jobs are beginning to feel the climate change burn as well. In fact, it's causing an actual poison to build up inside of workplaces: carbon dioxide. A recent Harvard study shows that heightened levels of CO2 (the byproduct of industrialization and bitching hairstyles) can have an adverse effect on productivity. Breathing in CO2 levels above 1,000 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere can bring about a sense of fatigue and even corrode our decision-making processes. In other words, too much CO2 makes our brain sacks not idea so great. That's bad news for offices, which can house up to 1,200 ppm. However, this is even worse in schools, where carbon pollution can reach up to 2,000 ppm, and airplanes, which go up to 4,000 ppm when grounded. However your political party dictates you feel about scientific fact, we can probably all agree that children and pilots are two demographics we definitely don't want to be slowly poisoning.
But what causes this massive buildup of CO2 in large buildings? Ironically, the answers lie in how they tried to counter the effects of climate change to begin with. Buildings have become more and more isolated in an attempt to cut the costs of heating and air conditioning. However, isolation goes both ways, trapping plenty of bad chemicals inside of the building -- which is sometimes referred to as "sick building syndrome." If we want to find where this influx of CO2 is coming from, we needn't look any further than our own disgusting bodies breathing out a bunch of carbon dioxide in a borderline airtight structure. Just having a large concentration of people breathing on one another can cause CO2 levels in office buildings to double, causing everyone inside to become a bit dumber. It seems a bit redundant to say in 2017, but mouthbreathers are going to be the death of us all.
With pollution poisoning us wherever we go, it's never been more important to stay fit and healthy. And what better way to get motivated than watching the most physically fit human specimens in the world compete at their best. Well, close to their best, at least, because global warming is making it impossible for athletes to stay at the top of their game. When the 2016 Summer Olympics kicked off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's Climate Observatory felt obligated to warn spectators of something quite embarrassing: It would be very unlikely that a lot of records would be broken. And they were right: Only 27 new world records were set in Rio, compared to 32 in London 2012 and 43 in Beijing 2008. Brazil knew this beforehand, having first experienced the adverse effects of "heat stress" while hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, where several matches had to be interrupted for cooling breaks.
Turns out that hosting an athletics competition in a scorching hot city in the middle of summer can mess with the finely tuned bodies of Olympia's finest. Marathon runners, for example, can expect to add two minutes to their times for every ten degrees hotter than 52 degrees Fahrenheit (or 11 degrees C). If you really want to help marathon runners, lemon wedges and cups of water don't cut it anymore. No, pelting them with ice cubes launched from a pitching machine is how medalists are made nowadays.
It's not just their performance athletes should be worried about either; it's also their health. When temperatures hit 90 degrees F/32 degrees C, sweat production shoots up by 50 percent. However, the sweat now sticking to our skin no longer cools us off, increasing the risk of hyperthermia. And if we manage to hit 104 degrees F/40 degrees C, we run the risk of heat stroke -- one of many fatal conditions that sound like a Van Halen B-side. Professor Luzimar Teixeira of the University Of Sao Paulo went so far as to say that "On hot days in polluted areas, it is healthier to go out and have a beer (in the shade) than to practice sports outdoors." Sound advice, but we're not sure day drinking needs to become an Olympic sport.
But if you think global warming will make the Summer Olympics suck, think of what it must be doing to the Winter Olympics. Because of the steady rise in temperatures, it's becoming harder and harder for hosting nations to provide enough quality snow needed for athletes to perform. At the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, the weather was so balmy that Russian organizers called on people to pray for snow. And when El Nino hit the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, they had to fly in snow via helicopter. In Canada. In fact, researchers predict that by 2080, only six of the previous Winter Olympic venues will still be cold enough to qualify as hosts again. That probably means that by the turn of the century, whichever nation had the foresight to build the world's largest freezer / world-ransoming ice laser will have a monopoly on some pretty sweet Olympic sponsorship deals.
One of the most iconic symbols of our disgusting carbon footprint is air travel. Airplanes leave behind a trail of smoke and filth like the world's shittiest sky writing, sending a message to Nature that reads "Fuck you, get cancer." But revenge is at hand, and airlines are finding out that shitting where you eat is a bad idea even when it involves airline food. According to a report in Nature Climate Change, the heating of the atmosphere caused by pollution is making winds more volatile, which in turn is slowing down and even damaging airplanes. Several associates at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution performed a 20-year long study on the impact of climate change on flights between Honolulu and the U.S. west coast. On average, because of a net gain in headwinds, the duration of a plane's round trip was bumped up by as much as a minute. That may not seem like much, but if you apply that one-minute delay to every commercial flight, that adds up to an extra billion gallons of fuel. With an increase in fuel costs comes an increase in ticket prices, which means we'll be paying extra for the privilege of having to watch one more minute of the in-flight Adam Sandler movie.
Not only will flights become more and more expensive, but we'll also get less bang for our buck. Or more bang, actually, as turbulence is going to get steadily worse every year. "It is predicted there will be more and more incidents of severe clear-air turbulence, which typically comes out of the blue with no warning, occurring in the near future as climate change takes its effect in the stratosphere," according to Dr. Paul Williams, a research fellow at the University Of Reading. That kind of stealth turbulence will get you snatching at the sick bags in a commercial airplane, but can often prove fatal for smaller private planes. It has been estimated that this increase in turbulence alone is costing the U.S. aviation industry half a billion dollars in damages and delays each year.
But we're not going to stop sky-bussing slobs to tropical destinations anytime soon, so all these delays just mean more fuel consumption, which means more C02 being blasted into the air until we've created such a maelstrom up there we'll have to invent Skynet just so we can blame it on someone else.
Halting the proliferation of climate change is necessary in order to give future generations the chance not to have to live underground like mole people because we've made the surface look like a psychedelic rock album cover. But carbon emissions could screw up our past as well, like a poop Looper.
Here's a quick primer on carbon dating: In the 1940s, a scientist with a very scientist-y name, Willard Libby, developed a new system for determining the age of fossils. The model relies on the radioactive carbon-14 isotope, which combines with oxygen in the atmosphere and is eventually absorbed by all organic matter. Because of a constant influx, the same amount of carbon-14 stays in the atmosphere, but down on the ground is a different story. When organic material expires (read: dies), it stops taking in the radioactive isotope, and the amount that it already contained begins to gradually decrease. By measuring the decay, we can determine the age of organic matter pretty accurately. Carbon dating therefore has several other uses outside of archaeology, like the forensic identification of human and animal tissue -- which has a great boon in Africa for determining if an ivory sample was too young to have been harvested legally. If there was a CSI: Capetown, there'd be a hackneyed pun about carbon dating in every episode.
But all of that archeological goodness is about to come to an end. According to Heather Graven, a researcher at Imperial College London, the mass injection of burned fossils in the atmosphere could be the death of carbon dating. Combusted fossils no longer contain 14C, so by flooding the atmosphere with its carbon, the amount of radioactive carbon is being diluted. This means that fossil fuel, like the marker used by a teenaged boy to fill in his sparse mustache, is artificially making the atmosphere appear older. According to Graven, by 2050 this could mean that carbon dating could mistakenly identify a piece of fresh organic material as 1,000 years old; and by the end of the century, the model would think we're all old enough to have been invited to Jesus' Bar Mitzvah. We needn't wait that long to kiss our most reliable dating process goodbye, though, because if we remain on our current climate buggering track, carbon dating will become useless as early as 2030. Or was it 1030? It's so hard to tell these days.
Allergies happen when our idiot bodies freak out thinking harmless substances like pollen are actually parasites trying to infest us, resulting in a bunch of coughs, sneezes, and wheezes as we try to force these invaders out. The point is, allergies suck, and thanks to climate change, they're about to get a whole lot worse.
Carbon dioxide is a key factor in photosynthesis, which turns the harmful substance into an organic carbon that can be processed by plants. That's the great thing about plants: They eat shit and shit beauty. But plenty of humans have developed an intolerance for the pollen produced by plants, especially the kind that comes from grass or weeds. Which is bad, because according to recent analysis, both Timothy grass and ragweed have shown a significant uptick in pollen production thanks to all the CO2 we're belching into the atmosphere.
What's that? You're not worried because you don't have allergies? Guess again. If you're not getting the sniffles during spring now, that only means that your body is able to keep calm under the current level of pollen spread. Every bump in the amount of pollen in the air means another roll of the dice to see if your respiratory system loses its shit. Spring has already moved up by as much as 10-14 days compared to 20 years ago, meaning the pollen season is getting more of a head start with every passing year. Researchers predict that by 2040, the pollen count could be double what it is today, meaning some people won't be able to get anywhere near a freshly mowed lawn without suffocating.
For a brief moment, scientists hoped that the release of more ozone, which damages plant growth, would even the pollen problem out, in the way that Godzilla evened out Japan's Mothra problem. Unfortunately, studies have shown that ozone barely hinders plants' absorption of CO2. This will hit asthmatics the hardest, as they will receive the one-two punch of an increase in both allergens and ozone pollution, which can trigger asthma symptoms. One day, our children's children may go to a natural history museum and find an inhaler next to the dinosaur skulls and mammoth tusks as another remnant of creatures driven to extinction by climate change.
In January 2016, a study in Nature Climate Change came out with an unexpected prediction: Global warming is starting to affect power plants. Out of the 24,515 hydropower plants investigated, the study warned that as much as 86 percent of them would start dropping output like loose change in the next few decades. The same would happen to 74 percent of the study's 1,427 thermoelectric plants. The reason for both calamities will be the same: water (or more specifically the lack thereof). Unsurprisingly, droughts can do a real number on hydropower plants.
Meanwhile, thermoelectric plants are having a hard time cooling their reactors, thanks to both less abundant sources of water and a gradual increase in the temperature of available water. This all results in a much less cost-effective way of running a power plant. And all those losses will, of course, be passed on to us, the consumers. If you thought power companies were insufferable before, just wait until they get real thirsty.
The good news is that not all months will have a steeper electricity bill, because during the summer, we might not get any electricity at all. In some parts of the world, the study claims that output of hydroelectric power could be cut by as much as 30 percent during months that are particularly hot. Such a large swing in output will undoubtedly lead to rolling blackouts -- meaning that we all better get real into bonfires, because summers are about to get way more dark and boring.
But this needn't be the disaster it could prove to be. According to the same study, many of these hindrances can be circumvented by allocating funds to making power plants climate proof. Ironically, this would mean these failing behemoths would have to start relying more on alternative energy, like wind and solar power -- basically, a bunch of people whose job relies on pretending that climate change isn't a big deal need to spend loads of money on the assumption that climate change will become an even bigger deal. If you're reading this article in the future using a laptop powered by tears and urine, you already know how this turned out.
Question: If climate change is making sunlight, exercise, and breathing lethal, how on God's yellowing earth can we stay healthy? Luckily, vegetables and other plants thrive on carbon dioxide, so at least we can still eat healthily to keep our bodies going, right? Wrong. Like a terrible roommate, greenhouse gasses are farting all over our food -- severely reducing its nutritional value. In a refreshingly honest paper titled "Increasing CO2 Threatens human Nutrition," a large international team of university researchers have laid bare a pattern of carbon dioxide sucking the nutrients out of plants like a confused vampire.
In a study which replicated the carbon dioxide levels of the near future, wheat, rice, and field peas were all shown to have lost a significant amount of their zinc and iron. What's more, all three of them also had lower levels of protein, which you may recognize as one of those vital things we need to prevent us from turning into sickly wasteland mutants. However, while protein can be obtained from several sources, these kinds of vegetables are our primary sources of zinc and iron, which boosts our immune system and helps transport oxygen around the body, respectively. This is dire news, especially since a good two billion people are already not having these basic nutritional needs met. If this keeps up, pretty soon doctors will start recommending licking exposed bits of lead piping as a vitamin.
And while it is true that plants require carbon dioxide to live, everything else needed to grow a baby carrot is getting screwed over by greenhouse gasses, which reduces the amount of fertile land and even helps spread plant diseases. So the earth will be a blazing hot ball of dead soil with no electricity, and what few plants do manage to grow will destroy us with terrible allergies. We might as well sink the whole thing into the ocean.
Thinking about all the ways that climate change will destroy our hopes and dreams sure is depressing. We all sure could use a break from all this doom and gloom. Maybe go on a vacation, travel around, see the sights. You know what they say: There's no time like the present.
No, seriously, there's no time like the present. Get all of your holiday needs out of your system right now, because soon there won't be anything nice to visit anyway.
Sadly, we won't even get an Independence Day-like cool explosion to bid adieu to some of our greatest landmarks, which may disappear because of climate change. Most of them will just be slowly swallowed by the sea, including but not limited to: The Statue Of Liberty, Fortress Of Cartagena, Easter Island Moai, and, tragically, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument. And it's not just landmarks, either. The disturbing ascension of sea levels is even endangering whole cities, like Alexandria, Venice, and Vancouver. National Parks will take their share of the damage, too. Mesa Verde National Park will probably die in a fire, while Joshua Tree is experiencing a slow collapse of its ecological system. An honorable mention goes to Glacier National Park in Montana, which isn't in danger of disappearing, but scientists predict it will be "glacier-free by 2030" and therefore utterly pointless.
But the most creative way pollution is dismantling human history is happening at Stonehenge. The soil beneath this famous enigma is slowly being eroded by flash floods and freaking moles, who are multiplying like crazy thanks to the warmer summers. The moles are expanding their underground tunnels, which means it's only a matter of time until Stonehenge collapses into the earth like a Jenga tower in a sinkhole.
OK, so much of the world will be stricken by the curse of Atlantis, and our new beach fronts will be a bunch of arid parking lots in the middle of flooded suburbs, but think of how great these new ecological phenomena will be for epic nature walks! Sure, those will be great, but only if you like dead forests and malaria. At the current rate of global warming, several forests, including the Amazon, are experiencing "massive tree mortality." If that rise ever were to double, it could easily trigger "massive extinctions and widespread ecosystem collapse." But it's not all death and decay with global warming. Thanks to the combo of longer warm weather seasons and unpredictable weather patterns, certain insects populations will not only explode, but will also be blasted across the world like history's most disgusting shotgun. A few of these baby booming bugs are also neat little vectors of misery, carrying nastiness like West Nile virus, dengue fever and Lyme disease. So no need to leave your house, really. Soon enough everyone will be able to catch an exotic debilitating illness while lounging at their backyard pool.
We get it, fixing climate change will be tough. We've got a long road ahead of us, and too many people making out with the asphalt. But just in case this all goes tits up, remember this guide to surviving climate change: Don't go outside, don't stay indoors, don't rely on electrical devices, try to stay fit without nutrition or exercise, try not to die from random dengue fever outbreak, forget the past, abandon the future, and go see the Statue Of Liberty before it sinks into the ocean or air travel becomes impossible. Shouldn't be too hard.
Think Nana and Pop-Pop's loving 60-year monogamous relationship is quaint and old-fashioned? First off, sorry for that disturbing image, but we've got some news for you: the monogamous sexual relationship is actually brand new relative to how long humans have been around. Secondly, it's about to get worse from here: monkey sex.
On this month's live podcast, Jack O'Brien and the Cracked staff welcome Dr. Christopher Ryan, podcaster and author of 'Sex at Dawn', onto the show for a lively Valentine's Day discussion about love, sex, why our genitals are where they are, and why we're more like chimps and bonobos than you think.
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