comments_image Comments

5 Weird -- and Terrifying -- Consequences of Climate Change You May Not Know About

When you hear climate change you think of crazy weather, but there are other frightening effects.

When you think about the terrible effects of climate change, I bet you picture droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, which makes sense — climate change is causing weather patterns to go absolutely crazy. But the crazy weather leads to other consequences that we often don’t think about when we hear the globe is warming up. Here is a list of 5 frightening effects from climate change this summer.

1. Increased Suicide

Besides destroying crops and causing food prices to spike, droughts have recently been linked to an alarming consequence: suicide. In a new study published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a link between droughts and suicides among men ages 30 to 49 living in rural areas in Australia. After evaluating 40 years of drought and suicide data for the state of New South Wales, droughts were linked to a 15 percent increase in suicide risk among these men. This link was also found in men under 30, though no link was found among women.

Though research for this study was completed in Australia, links between droughts and suicides have been made before, particularly in India where thousands of farmers kill themselves each year. In fact, a recent article states that one farmer in India commits suicide every 12 hours.

As the United States is seeing its largest drought since 1956, there are reasons to be concerned about the correlation. While the authors of the study note, “suicide is a complex phenomenon with many interacting social, environmental, and biological causal factors,” there are plenty of explanations for the correlation. The authors write that farmers and farming communities lose a lot of money when droughts destroy their crops. They also state that farmers experience mental distress when witnessing the devastation of their livestock and crops.

The authors remind us that if we don’t truly work to stop climate change, we will have to face the disturbing effects. They conclude in their abstract: “Elucidating the relationships between drought and mental health will help facilitate adaptation to climate change.”

2.  West Nile Virus

What do you get when you combine increasingly warm weather and thousands of mosquitoes? A huge outbreak of West Nile virus. As droughts are causing creek waters to stop flowing, mosquitoes are finding the perfect breeding spot in the standing water. Mosquitoes also mature and thus breed faster in the heat. Meanwhile, warm weather also decreases the virus’ incubation period. This all allows the virus to spread rapidly. In addition, earlier springs and milder winters lengthen breeding season.  

According to the Center for Disease Control, West Nile virus has infected 1,118 people and killed 41 people across the nation. Human cases have been detected in 38 states, while human and animal cases have been detected in 47 states. Texas, especially Dallas County, has been hard hit, with 586 reported cases and 11 deaths.

3. River Obstruction

What’s the number-one thing you need to distribute goods along the Mississippi River? Water. But the drought has shortchanged the river this summer, as its water levels hit a record low.  For instance, the water level near Memphis is 12 feet lower than normal. As a result, 11 miles of the river were recently closed when a vessel ran aground. The river’s shutdown halted nearly 100 boats and barges from passing. Obstruction of riverways can have devastating effects on the economy. In 2010, more than $40 billion worth of cargo passes along the Mississippi River.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has responded with lots of dredging, a process of clearing out an area of water by scooping up sediment. However, as we often realize, trying to put a bandage on our environmental crisis rarely works. Dredging causes its own environmental impact, including harming marine ecosystems and spreading toxins near the site.