Originally published on The Climate Reality Project.
Toxic slime, bloodsucking villains, and a “code brown” — this isn’t a Halloween horror story. It’s real life, and it’s disgusting.
You’ve probably heard of how climate change is impacting our planet: record-breaking global temperatures; melting polar ice caps; droughts and floods; rising sea levels; ocean acidification… and it’s even affecting our coffee!
But really, these impacts are just the beginning. There are countless more ways that climate change is altering the world and way of life that we know. You might not even realize that these changes are due to our warming planet. And frankly, many of these results are downright disgusting.
So, in the spirit of Halloween, we’ve compiled several of the grossest consequences of climate change. (You’re welcome.)
1. Hazy Skies
Hot, sticky summer days are on the rise in many parts of the world – and that can mean stagnant, hazy skies. Take steamy weather, subtract cool breezes, and you’ve got a formula for dangerous ground-level ozone – a major component of smog. While average ozone concentrations have decreased overall in the US over the last few decades, the increase in record-breaking high temperatures helps ozone form more readily. As a result, our air quality decreases, our skies look smoggy, and our bodies become more and more prone to respiratory issues such as asthma.
2. Algae Blooms
An expanding mass of stinky, poisonous, green slime? No, it’s not the plot to a campy 1950s horror flick. It’s happening right now in places like Florida, Utah, and California. Many scientists predict that climate change will worsen algae blooms like these and increase their frequency, size, and toxicity—closing beaches and choking out ecosystems. “We’ve been here since 2002,” Discovery Bay, California boater Dave Holmes notes. “It is by far the worst we’ve ever seen.”
3. Fish Die-Offs
Algae blooms aren’t pleasant for humans trying to enjoy the outdoors, and they’re even worse for the fish trying to survive in slimy water. In part because of algae blooms, fish die-offs have been on the rise.
What’s more, along with the algae problem, fish die-offs have been occurring more frequently, with climate change likely playing a key role . With higher global temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, we may end up seeing more fish die-offs like the one in New Jersey last August, where more than 1 million fish died as a result of low-oxygen levels in the water (a product of high temperatures, low rainfall, and human pollutants). Climate change might also make fish more susceptible to deadly parasites. In the Yellowstone River last summer, for example, a hot summer and historically low streamflows—consistent with the hotter and drier trajectory of southwest Montana’s climate—created conditions ripe for a disease outbreak that caused an unprecedented fish-die off.
Speaking of hot water, you know who loves a nice, warm dip? No, not Swamp Thing. Something even more revolting: mosquitoes. And scarier still: They’re thriving in the Arctic thanks to warming temperatures. Researchers recently estimated that in a warmer world, Arctic mosquitoes could have a 53 percent better chance of maturing into adulthood and that they’re already emerging two weeks sooner than in the past. For those of us living outside the Arctic, mosquito season is on the rise, with an estimated 76 percent of major US cities already experiencing a longer mosquito season compared to 1980. Is nowhere safe from these pesky bugs?!
Mosquitoes aren’t the only bloodsuckers benefiting from a warmer planet. While mosquitoes, much like Dracula, prefer stalking their prey under cover of night, ticks are most active during warm daytime hours. And milder weather means ticks – such as the ones that carry Lyme disease – are expanding their territory northward, since their larvae aren’t being killed off by freezing temperatures. Which really bites.
6. Sewage overflows
You’ve made it this far in our gross-out list. So let’s take it up a notch with something truly disgusting: Thanks in part to climate change, millions of gallons of untreated sewage is being released into streets and waterways in the US. This is due to an increase in heavy downpours, which then inundate our cities’ often-outdated sewer systems, forcing them to overflow, bringing forth disease, contamination, pollution, and a whole lot of “yuck” to the surface. That’s in addition to the direct results of flooding, such as destroying homes and businesses, damaging roads and bridges, decimating crops and livestock, and so on.
With more wetness comes another ill effect: increases in mold. After heavy rainfall damages buildings, the mold makes itself right at home and can thrive in the hot, humid conditions that are made more likely thanks to climate change. The result? More allergies and respiratory health problems.
8. Toxic Foods
Photo © 2011 MUExtension417 / Flickr cc by-NC 2.0
Fungus – yet another organism that loves the warm, humid days that are on the rise thanks to climate change. And what’s grosser still, fungi can produce mycotoxins, a poison that can cause cancer, suppress immune systems, and in some cases result in death. When certain fungi contaminate cereals, nuts, and grains, mycotoxins enter these crops and can harm our health once they’re ingested, absorbed, or inhaled. While the majority of the impact of mycotoxins occurs in tropical regions, the fungi – and the poisons they carry – are predicted to expand northward as the planet warms.
Help Keep These Horror Stories to Halloween
When we power our lives and economies with affordable clean energy, a bright, sustainable future lies ahead for our planet – instead of one filled with toxic mold and creepy-crawlies. But it’s up to us to make that sunny future a reality.
If you agree that it’s time for our leaders to honor – and strengthen – their commitments to climate action, sign here to say, “I Pledge to Support Leaders Who Make Climate Solutions a Reality.”
Reprinted with permission.