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of mosquitoes and ticks expands. Meanwhile, groups like the newly


formed and expansive Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, to which Ahdoot belongs, are being proactive. Its doctors are greening their offices, swapping cars for bikes, buses or carpooling, lobbying lawmakers and encouraging their patients to undertake measures to prevent the problem from worsening. In the process, they say, they might even improve their own health. “We want the public to understand


that climate change is not just about polar bears or receding glaciers in the Arctic, but also about our children and our health here and now,” says Ahdoot.


Flora and Fauna Issues During the past century, average tem- peratures have increased between 1.3 and 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit, with annual increases accelerating in recent years as 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017 all set records for ambient heat. Such rising tempera- tures, combined with increased rain and record-high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, can have a significant impact on plants—both those that irritate or nourish us, says Howard Frumkin, a medical doctor who co-authored the Lancet report and teaches environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Wild, allergy-inducing plants like


ragweed and poison ivy are flourishing. Poison ivy is growing faster, larger and more toxic as excess carbon prompts it to produce more of its rash-inducing com- pound, urushiol. “We are seeing the season for ragweed productivity expanding, with pollen levels rising higher and earlier and lasting longer by several weeks,” advises Frumkin. In 2016, residents of Minneapo- lis, Minnesota, endured a ragweed season that was 21 days longer than in 1990. Other, desirable crops, like grains, do worse in hotter carbon-rich climes, producing less protein and other nutrients, Frumkin notes. Meanwhile, bugs are thriving, with


longer seasons and wider ranges in which to reproduce. Mosquitoes’ capacity to transmit dengue fever—the world’s fast- est-growing mosquito-borne illness—has


risen by 11 percent since 1950, more than half of that just since 1990, according to the Lancet report. Further, the tick that carries Lyme disease is now present in 46 percent of U.S. counties, up from 30 percent in 1998. “My physician colleagues used to treat two or three cases a month during tick season,” says Dr. Nitin Damle, a physician at South County Internal Med- icine, in Wakefield, Rhode Island. “Now each of us sees 40 to 50 new cases each season.”


Heat Pollution Rising heat can also aggravate lung condi- tions because it promotes the production of ozone, a major lung irritant. With prolonged heat oſten come wildfires. When one burned for three months in North Carolina in a recent summer, researchers discovered that residents of counties affected by the smoke plume showed a 50 percent increase in emergency trips due to respiratory illness. Like Isaac, more kids are ending up


in hospitals due to soaring temperatures, with U.S. emergency room visits for heat illnesses up by 133 percent between 1997 and 2006. Ahdoot recalls a young football player from Arkansas that showed signs of weakness and fatigue during practice, but wasn’t treated right away. He ended up with heat stroke, kidney failure and pulmonary edema and ultimately required kidney dialysis. “Every summer now, I see the impacts of increasing temperatures


and heat waves on kids,” she says. Climate change can also impact men-


tal health, according to a recent review by the American Psychological Association. Exposure to natural disasters can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Plus, accord- ing to research institutions including the University of California, San Diego, and Iowa State University, chronic heat, espe- cially at night, can interfere with sleep and even lead to aggressive behavior. Ten there’s the worry about what to do about it, and whether it will be enough.


“When you talk with people about what is affecting them, climate is definitely one of the things stressing them out,” says Tomas Doherty, Psy.D., a psychologist in Portland, Oregon. “Tere’s a sense of mystery and powerlessness around it that weighs on people.”


Fresh Perspective, New Hope Mona Sarfaty, a family physician who is now director of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health, attests that 69 percent of Americans are aware that climate change is occurring, and more than half agree that human activities are at least partly to blame. Yet only a third believe it could ever harm them personally. “So much of the early focus was on the receding glaciers and the penguins,” she says. “People today still think it will affect ‘those other people over there,’ but not them.”


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