A plague of ticks and mosquitoes
As the world gets warmer, ticks, mosquitoes, and other disease vectors are expanding their habitats and are able to spread disease for longer before cold weather shuts them down for a season.
We’re already seeing this happen, as a recent CDC report revealed – diseases like Lyme disease, Dengue, and Zika spread by these pests tripled in the US between 2004 and 2016.
We don’t have good ways to control mosquito populations and we’re terrible at stopping ticks. As a result, these conditions, known as vector-borne diseases, are expected to become bigger problems as CO2 cranks up the global thermostat.
Hurricanes and fires
And of course, the larger-scale planetary changes caused by accumulating atmospheric CO2 are also expected to affect human health. As CO2 warms the planet, ice sheets are melting and seas are expanding, making cities more vulnerable to storms.
Higher temperatures are expected to lead to more intense storms with more rainfall, and as the past year demonstrated, that can have a huge effect on people. Last summer, the Caribbean and US Gulf Coast were hit by devastatingly strong hurricanes, one of which dumped an unprecedented amount of rain on Houston. Flooding caused by heavy monsoons in South Asia killed 1,200 people.
Wildfires are also getting worse as CO2 concentrations increase – something experts link to warmer temperatures. Thousands of buildings were razed by record-breaking wildfires in California last year. The amount of land burned in the US since 1984 is double what would have been expected without the effects of climate change in that period, according to one study. And the average wildfire season in the west now lasts at least two and a half months longer than it did in the early 1970s, according to WXshift, a project of Climate Central.
Time is running out
When President Barack Obama’s EPA ruled in 2009 that CO2 was a pollutant that needed to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, they listed health effects like these as a reason to consider CO2 concentrations dangerous. The Trump administration’s is reevaluating that ruling, but these facts are still listed on an archived Environmental Protection Agency page.
We’re already seeing many of these effects today. Without a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, most experts believe these consequences will become more and more severe. Cutting back on CO2 isn’t enough to stop these effects – at this point, we need to cut them down to zero and ideally figure out ways to remove some CO2 from the atmosphere in the first place.
These are good reasons to do so.