Many will agree that the extreme heat we’ve been experiencing for the past few weeks is unpleasant, but we all should see it as a reminder that climate change is very real, and we are already starting to see the effects.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, extreme temperature conditions are becoming more common as a result of climate change, with unusually high summer temperatures and unusually low winter temperatures. However, record-setting high temperatures are more common than record lows. Additionally, unusually high summer nights are becoming more common, which indicates less cooling off at night.
Extreme temperatures aren’t the only concern. The EPA states that heat waves occur at three times the rate they did in the 1960s, a higher percentage of precipitation occurs in intense single-day events and all of the top 10 warmest years on global record have occurred since 2005.
The intense heat of this summer can certainly be miserable, but it’s a long way from the worst of our worries. While warmer temperatures may actually improve growing conditions for some crops, they could increase the spread of certain diseases. According to the CDC, rising temperatures may allow fungi to spread into areas previously too cold for them to survive, which may cause new fungal diseases to emerge. Increased natural disasters and flooding may also increase the risk of mold growing in homes, which can cause infections in the lungs and brain.
Warmer temperatures also give mosquitoes and ticks more time to reproduce. The CDC states that “between 2004 and 2018, the number of reported illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites more than doubled, with more than 760,000 cases reported in the United States.”
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to do anything about climate change on a large scale when many want to deny that it even exists. It’s also difficult to avoid contributing to the climate crisis when, for example, much of the suburban Midwest lacks walkable cities and easily accessible public transportation. It can also be hard to understand the science behind climate change unless one has studied environmental science, which is why it is important to believe scientists.
As individuals, we can make decisions to do our part. The EPA recommends sharing rides or going easy on the gas and brakes to reduce fuel emissions, considering an item’s durability when making a purchase and getting involved with local environmental policy. On a larger scale, pay attention to how politicians make decisions and who they take money from, and vote accordingly.
We at The Alestle hope that the recent temperatures, while unpleasant, serve as a wake-up call and motivate the community to take stronger action against climate change. The longer we wait, the worse it will get.