Scientists: Climactic Hazards Aggravate Disease-Causing Pathogens

Scientists: Climactic Hazards Aggravate Disease-Causing Pathogens

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Here’s something to think about after two years of living in a COVID-19 reality: More than 58% of human diseases caused by pathogens – think dengue, hepatitis, malaria, Zika – have been “aggravated by climatic hazards.”

Research published this week in Nature Climate Change by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa examines empirical evidence in more than 70,000 scientific papers on the impacts of 10 climatic hazards sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions on each known human pathogenic disease, including drought, heatwaves, wildfires, floods, storms, and sea level rise, Science Daily is reporting.

The scientists concluded these hazards influence diseases “triggered by viruses, bacteria, animals, fungi, protozoans, plants and chromists,” with 218 out of 375 known human pathogenic diseases having been affected at some point by at least one climatic hazard, the article states.

“Given the extensive and pervasive consequences of the COVID 19 pandemic, it was truly scary to discover the massive health vulnerability resulting as a consequence of greenhouse gas emissions,” Camilo Mora, geography professor in the College of Social Sciences and lead author of the study, told Science Daily. “There are just too many diseases, and pathways of transmission, for us to think that we can truly adapt to climate change. It highlights the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.”

Other findings highlighted in the article include:

  • Climatic hazards are bringing pathogens closer to people. Heatwaves, for instance, have been associated with rising cases of several waterborne diseases.
  • Climatic hazards have enhanced specific aspects of pathogens. For example, storms, heavy rainfall and floods create stagnant water, increasing breeding and growing grounds for mosquitoes and the pathogens that they transmit.
  • Climatic hazards have diminished human capacity to cope with pathogens by altering body condition, forcing people into unsafe conditions and damaging infrastructure, forcing exposure to pathogens and/or reducing access to medical care.

Climate Bill

The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the Senate, which represents the largest climate change-fighting investment in U.S. history with more than $375 billion over the next decade for clean energy development and incentives for buying electric cars, installing solar panels and weaning the power grid off fossil fuels, “could rejuvenate the country’s reputation and bolster its efforts to push other nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more quickly,” states an Associated Press story this week.

The House is expected to approve the bill on Friday.

“This says, ‘We’re back, baby,’” Jennifer Turner, who works on international climate issues as director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum in Washington, told the AP.

It has been estimated the bill will reduce emissions between 31% to 44%, according to an analysis by the Rhodium Group, the AP reported.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed the size of the bill.

“This is one of the most comprehensive and impactful bills Congress has seen in decades: it will reduce inflation, it will lower prescription drug costs, it will fight climate change, it will close tax loopholes, and it will reduce — reduce — the deficit,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Reuters article.

Florida Flooding

Daily tidal flooding in Florida will become the norm in the next century.

That’s according to an Insurance Journal article on Monday reporting on the latest tide predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Experts at NOAA released their forecast for high tide flooding days at various locations around the country, which show that by the year 2100, Fort Myers will see only one day in which nuisance high tide flooding is not an issue, and Naples will be flooded by incoming tides every day.

NOAA defines Nuisance flooding as “minor tidal flooding that occurs at high tide oftentimes associated with minor impacts such as old sea walls being overtopped, water in low-lying areas of roads, storm water systems that actually have water coming in through the outtake pipes, so a degrading functionality.”

Nuisance flooding happens when tides are high enough to cause an impact to roads or services.

“Flooding is definitely occurring in the South Florida region,” William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer, said. In South Florida, he said, as in most of the East Coast and Gulf Coast locations, flooding rates are increasing on a year-to-year basis.

Sweet said it’s important to think of the predictions as a long-term trend, one that has more ups than downs.

More on Climate Bill

It wasn’t all green thumbs up for the Inflation Reduction Act.

A New York Times article out after passage of the bill asserted that backers of the bill, which would give buyers of used electric cars a tax credit, may be skirting a big issue. EVs are far too expensive for most Americans.

Automakers have complained the tax credit applies to a narrow section of EVs, and experts say broader steps are needed to make these vehicles more affordable and to get enough of them on the road to make an impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

“High prices are caused by shortages of batteries, of raw materials like lithium and of components like semiconductors,” the NYT article states. “Strong demand for electric vehicles from affluent buyers means that carmakers have little incentive to sell cheaper models. For low- and middle-income people who don’t have their own garages or driveways, another obstacle is the lack of enough public facilities to recharge.”

It continues: “The bottlenecks will take years to unclog. Carmakers and suppliers of batteries and chips must build and equip new factories. Commodity suppliers have to open new mines and build refineries. Charging companies are struggling to install stations fast enough. In the meantime, electric vehicles remain largely the province of the rich.”

The article notes that EV demand is so high that models like the Ford Mach-E have sold out, and there are excessively long waits and high prices for other EVS. Tesla has told potential buyers not to expect delivery of the Model Y until sometime between January and April. The purchase price of the Model Y is $66,000.

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