Allergies Worse Than Ever? Blame Global Warming
Allergy sufferers like to claim — in between sniffles — that each spring’s allergy season is worse than the last. But this year, they might actually be right.
Thanks to an unusually cold and snowy winter, followed by an early and warm spring, pollen counts are through the roof in much of the U.S., especially in the Southeast, which is already home to some of the most allergenic cities in the country. A pollen count — the number of grains of pollen in a cubic meter of air — of 120 is considered high, but in Atlanta last week the number hit 5,733, the second highest level ever recorded in the city. (See a 1992 TIME cover on why allergies are nothing to sneeze at.)
The bad news is that in a warmer world, allergies are likely to get worse — and that’s going to cost sufferers and the rest of us. A new report released on Wednesday by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) found that global warming will likely increase pollen counts in the heavily populated eastern section of the country and that the effect of climate change could push the economic cost of allergies and asthma well above the current $32 billion price tag. “The latest climate science makes it clear that allergies could get much worse,” says Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist at NWF and the author of the report. “I really think this should be a wake-up call.”
Here’s how it works: higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere generally speed plant growth, while warmer temperatures mean that spring — and with it, allergy season — arrives earlier. Spring-like conditions in the East are already arriving on average 14 days earlier than just 20 years ago. (See why allergies are on the rise in children.)
Gosh, it HAS to be CO2, it couldn’t possibly be related to changes in rainfall, sunlight, available nutrients (like fertilizer runoff) or winds. No, only CO2 can make weeds grow like crazy. Apparently the Times writer never heard of Liebigs Law
Read the rest of the story here, then wipe your nose on your sleeve.