By: Amanda Zheng
We all know that one person who transforms into a sneezing machine with every spring allergy season. Unfortunately, it’s going to get a lot worse for the 40 million Americans that are victims to allergies due to an unexpected cause: climate change. When people hear of climate change and global warming, they usually imagine the melting global ice caps, warm winters, and even hotter summers.
Allergies are usually not correlated with climate change, however, there is a direct correlation between global warming and allergies. In the past 30 years, the number of people suffering from allergies has grown from 1/10 in 1970 to 3/10 in 2000. The rising carbon dioxide levels trap heat on the planet due to a greenhouse effect, and since carbon dioxide is the main ingredient in photosynthesis, it results in increased plant growth and an increased amount of pollen. Ragweed, the main contributor to pollen allergies, has been observed to double the amount of pollen produced with higher levels of carbon dioxide. In addition to stimulating plant growth, the longer growing season means that not only is there an excess of pollen in the air, but plants are also flourishing for a longer period of time. It has already been observed by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America that the higher temperatures have extended the pollen season in the US by up to 27 days from 1995 to 2011.
However, pollen allergies are not the worst effect of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts an average rise of 2.5-10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. This change will produce devastating effects on the world if something is not done to change this. The oceans have warmed more than .4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969 which is significant when considering how much energy is needed to warm the vast ocean. The Greenland ice sheet has lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica ice sheet has lost about 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period, tripling in the last decade. The melted ice has resulted in the global sea level rising 8 inches in the past century and the rate it is rising is only on the rise. The increased levels of carbon dioxide have resulted in the acidity of the surface ocean waters increasing by 30%. These devastating changes are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the catastrophic effects of global warming.
From here, the problem will only get worse if there is nothing to be done about the problem of climate change. Last year was the fourth-warmest year on record overall, and the warmest year on record for the oceans. New policies must be put into place to protect the environment instead of withdrawing from them, such as the United States withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. If change is not made soon, then not only will allergies get worse, but the Earth will cease to exist as we know it.
1. Christensen, J. (2019, April 12). Climate change is making allergy season worse. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/12/health/climate-change-allergies/index.html
2. Evidence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
3. Woodward, A. (2019, May 22). Your seasonal allergies are getting worse because of high levels of carbon dioxide - here's why. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.my/why-climate-change-makes-allergies-worse-2019-5/