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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.

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USACE is dredging in an attempt to make the river deep enough so heavy barges can pass. Shippers have had to lighten their barges, which is increasing their fuel and labor costs, and is, of course, not very sustainable.

The river has since opened, but several ports along the river have closed, and low water levels are expected to affect cargo until October.

The captain of one dredge, Frank Segree, said, "If we lose the river system it's just like losing the interstate highway system …Commerce is a vital part of our nation. This is a main artery for commerce."

4. Nuclear Plant Shutdown

Nuclear power plants often rely on cold waters to cool their reactors. But as hot weather is causing water temperatures to rise, nuclear plants have had to respond. In Connecticut, the Millstone nuclear plant was recently shut down as the waters surrounding it reached nearly 77 degrees, 2 degrees higher than the 75 degrees the reactor was designed to withstand.

In July, an Illinois nuclear plant, whose reactor was built to work in water below 98 degrees, asked for special permission to continue operation when the waters around it reached 102 degrees. Permission was granted partly because if a nuclear plant shuts down, cold water must be available to cool all equipment.

Craig Nesbit, the owner of the plant, told the New York Times, "Last thing in the world you’d ever want to do, if there was no safety implication, is shut down a 2,600-megawatt nuclear plant in the biggest heat wave in the last 30 years."

Other plants in the Midwest have faced similar problems with warm water temperatures as well as low water levels, which inhibit reactors’ pipes from drawing up water.

Although we should be focusing on creating more sustainable initiatives than nuclear energy, even greener energy projects are struggling to meet the supply of our large energy demand. For example, California’s hydroelectric power plants cannot produce as much electricity this summer due to the drought. Perhaps, the only truly sustainable approach we can take is to change our resource-consuming lifestyles.

Still, the worst-case scenario is not simply a reduction of energy, but a nuclear plant meltdown. Emergency officials in Connecticut even held a drill to deal with two fictitious accidents at the Millstone nuclear plant. They prepared for a release of large amounts of radioactivity from the reactor. The governor declared a general emergency, closing parks, moving schoolchildren to evacuation centers, evacuating residents within five miles of the plant and distributing potassium iodide pills to guard against absorption of radioactive iodine through people’s thyroids.

5. Cows Fed Candy

With corn nearly $9 a bushel due to the drought, Nick Smith, the co-owner of United Livestock Commodities in Kentucky, said his farm had to come up with a cheaper way to feed his cattle. The remedy? A concoction of candy rejected for human consumption, an ethanol byproduct and a mineral nutrient.

Joseph Watson, also a co-owner of the farm, said, "Just to be able to survive, we have to look for other sources of nutrition."

Watson claims the cows seem to be doing okay. But since cows are designed to eat grass — not corn, and certainly not an expired candy and ethanol mixture — the sweet mixture probably won’t be promising. And there are human side-effects, too: cows that don’t eat grass are more prone to developing E. coli, which can infect various types of food we eat.

Just this past week, a produce supplier in California recalled its romaine lettuce in fear of possible E.coli contamination. So vegetarians, don’t think we’re in the clear. Nobody is safe from these terrible climate change consequences that are affecting people -- and animals -- worldwide.