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5 Reasons Our Changing Climate Is More Dangerous Than You Think

Our failure to give a crap is more frightening than flesh-eating fungi.
 
 
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Photo Credit: © Meryll/Shuttestock.com

 
 
 
 

This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

This week the sane
among us will scoff at those hoarding candles and food for another apocalypse that fails to materialize. We’ll laugh at the accounts of people readying their bunkers and at store shelves being wiped clean. We know that the world will not come to a cataclysmic end on December 21.

Here’s what we’re not so good at understanding: We are part of a slowly enfolding tragedy in which the end of the world as we know it may be getting closer and closer. It won’t happen on any particular day that we can pinpoint and there won’t be a giant explosion or a big flood that will wipe everything away. There will be many floods and fires over many years. One species, one crop dying off after another. 

This may seem like a bad disaster flick straight out of Hollywood, but unfortunately, all of us have already been cast in this drama and it’s called Climate Change. The prognosis for heading off this catastrophe is not great ... but it’s also not impossible. We don’t need fear-mongering, but we do need a kick in the pants. And that’s a gross understatement. We need decisive action on a scale that we’ve yet to see materialize. There are great things being done and wise words being written. Osha Gray Davidson has detailed Germany’s rise as an renewable energy giant, and says that we can follow in its footsteps if we want. Alex Steffen believes cities will be the key to transforming our future and has presented a path for change. Bill McKibben and 350.org have led one campaign after another to raise consciousness, fight fossil fuel giants, stop dirty energy, and ignite action. Unless more of us join in their efforts and create new ones of our own, we’ll be headed toward a disaster in which no amount of canned goods or personal bunkers will save us. Here are five scary reasons things may be about to get a whole lot worse.

1. Flesh-Eating Fungi 

This would rank near the top of my list of horrors if I could have even fathomed that such a thing exists. But it does. After a powerful tornado hit Joplin, Missouri last May, 13 people were infected with Apophysomyces — five of them died. Melissa Breyer reports for Treehugger that Apophysomyces is “a common fungus that resides in soil, wood or water and generally leaves people well enough alone. But when it finds it way into the body, say, through blunt trauma or a puncture wound, say, suffered in a tornado ... it can grow quickly if the proper medical response is not immediately administered.”

Scientists say that climate change is fueling more intense and more frequent storms, and we’re seeing this play out each year to alarming proportions. And now it’s bringing a whole new level of threat with it. 

“These disasters put us at risk for exposure to organisms that are around us, but don't normally cause disease," David Engelthaler of the Translational Genomics Research Institute explained to Treehugger. “There's clearly an entire world out there that we're not seeing on a regular basis. It takes a severe event like this tornado for us to come face-to-face with some of the more dangerous pathogens out there."

2. Endangered Rivers

We hear mythic (and not-so-mythic) accounts of great floods. These days we’ve come to expect them with catastrophic hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy. We’ve also been warned about sea level rise lapping at the heels of our coastal cities and vacation towns. But it’s not just excessive water that may be our undoing, but the lack of it. Two of our country’s most esteemed rivers have lost their might — and the ramifications of that are huge. 

 
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