5 Horrors Of Climate Change (Normal People Don't Know About)
You may have heard that climate scientists have recently named 2030 as the deadline for stopping major environmental damage -- or if you get your news from alternative sources, you may have heard that climate change is a Soros-funded lie to destroy American corn. But that's all big-picture stuff. How is climate change going to affect you, personally? In some very strange ways, as it turns out ...
You Could Develop A Severe Allergy To Beef And Pork
You probably wouldn't notice a bite from the lone star tick. And you almost certainly wouldn't make the connection between that and the hives, chills, fever, and vomiting you'd experience the next time you ate red meat. But one bite from the tick can make you severely allergic to beef, pork, and mutton, because God was in a bad mood when he invented it.
So that sounds awful, but what does this have to do with climate change? Well, a decade ago, the lone star tick was limited to southeastern states ("lone star" comes from a distinctive white dot on the female, not from its love of Texas). The bizarre medical condition associated with it was also only discovered a decade ago. Before that, any Floridian who started ranting about how a tick made them vomit up hamburgers was dismissed as a lunatic. There's still a lot about the symptoms that we don't know, such as whether or not they remain for life, or if they can get nasty enough to shorten said life. Some physicians still have no idea that the condition even exists. But we do know that the lone star tick is spreading.
Ticks love warm, humid weather, and climate change means a lot more of that. The lone star tick has been spreading north and west, and can now be found as far afield as Nebraska and Maine. And more warmth means not only an expanding habitat, but also shorter, milder winters that give them better odds of surviving and spreading their strange curse of a disease. They're also aggressive, tough, and have a tendency to swarm, so you'll need more than a can of bug repellent to stop them. Ironically, the healthiest solution might be the lifestyle we've always advocated for -- skip that nature hike and simply sit at home eating steaks.
We're Experiencing A Jellyfish Uprising
Booming jellyfish populations are a problem. On a personal level, it's becoming more likely that one will give you a nasty sting, and on a broader scale, they're screwing with everything from the cooling water intakes of nuclear power plants to salmon farms. Of course, this has all been exacerbated by the fact that jellyfish have long been an understudied creature. About the only thing scientists studying the population boom are 100 percent sure of is that no jellyfish equivalent to Barry White has arisen from the murky depths to encourage lots of sensual planula production and asexual budding.
It might be because jellyfish thrive in warm water, which we're rapidly getting more of, and they also handle murky water (and water with increased acidity and decreased oxygen levels) better than competitors. Disastrous climate change also means fewer predators, a situation we're aiding through overfishing, even in otherwise-normal waters.
Are we seeing the first steps toward the future predicted in Splatoon, in which humanity is extinct and sentient jellyfish wander the remains of the surface? Scientists say, "What? No, how did you get in here?" But we say, "Yes, definitely. We must genetically modify octopuses to stop them." The good news is that science is hard at work figuring out how to make use of what is essentially a new resource. Ideas range from food on fish farms, to food for humans, to food for the human farms if we take a sharp turn to grim dystopia. We'd also like to toss out "more live jellyfish feeds" as a soothing option.
The lava lamp of a post-climate-change apocalypse
Suicide Rates Will Increase
Here's a fun correlation: As the temperature rises, so do suicide rates. CDC statistics indicate that American suicides peak in early summer, and a 2018 study found that if a month is 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Screaming Eagle degrees) hotter than normal, America's suicide rate increases 0.7 percent.
This statistic is controlling for other major variables, and it doesn't discriminate between gender and location. Now, this doesn't mean that we're all going to suddenly throw ourselves in front of threshing machines because The Happening wasn't as stupid as it seemed (it was, in fact, stupider). But it is estimated that by 2050, we could see an additional 14,000-26,000 suicides, which is about the same bump that's created by economic recessions.
What's less clear is why. We have the data, but not a definitive causation. The report does mention that neurotransmitters like serotonin are used to regulate body temperature, and that other studies have found that hot weather creates spikes in interpersonal violence at about the same rate it appears to affect suicide. So maybe this is all great news for Winnipeg's "It's So Cold And Miserable Here That You Won't Have The Energy For Violence!" tourism campaign.
Keep in mind that suicide is complicated, and climate is only one of many factors, so maybe it's not time to panic about how climate change is going to make a bunch of people kill themselves. On the other hand, maybe it is time to panic. Panic hard. Might be fun?
There Will Be More Space Junk
When you were a kid, you said you wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. And we know that you're 24 now and dream of one day maybe holding down a lucrative job at Jack in the Box, but we believe in you. You could still do it! But, uh, maybe start on that sooner rather than later. See, up in the thermosphere (the part of the atmosphere where satellites live, hopefully happily), carbon emissions can cause cooling rather than warming. This is a problem, in that cooling reduces drag, which means that space junk like defunct satellites and used booster rockets stay in orbit longer before they drop back to Earth and burn up in the atmosphere.
And this is a problem because, while we think of the atmosphere as having lots of room for activities, there's actually tons of junk floating around up there that represents a threat to functional satellites and manned spacecraft. 22,000 pieces of junk, according to a 2011 NASA study. If that sounds like a reasonable number, keep in mind that it only includes anything larger than four inches -- and at the speed things travel up there, even a stray paint chip can rip through metal. It's already a precarious situation, and letting junk soar majestically around the Earth for even longer is only going to increase the odds of a collision.
It's Going To Be Harder For Couples To Conceive
If none of this makes you worry about climate change, then know this: It's also going to affect your junk. August and September are two months that see a lot of births, and while September babies are subject to endless jokes about how their parents must have boned on New Year's Eve, it's unlikely to have been the special holiday so much as the cold weather. While it's undeniable that your parents had wild holiday sex -- and you should absolutely picture that right now -- those increased September births are probably because sperm production drops in hot weather. It goes to follow, then, that cold weather gives you better odds of conceiving.
Hot and cold states see the same dips and spikes in births relative to weather, possibly because California-based testicles are more used to the heat than those working out of Montana. So while an Illinois heat wave is relative to an Arizona one, birth rates everywhere are depressed by warmer weather, and then rebound once the sweaters bust out. And if the warmer months of the year become "basically all of them," that's bad news for both the birth rate in developed countries, which is already hovering around unsustainable, and for moms who do manage to get knocked up. It's speculated that climate change will lead to fewer spring births, but more summer births, and hot weather during the third trimester can hurt fetal health. But hey, at least you'll get a bitchin' tan out of the deal. It's aaaaall worth it.
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