A new climate-change report warns that in the not-so-distant future heat-related deaths and illnesses could skyrocket in western cities such as Denver and Phoenix in the grip of warmer temperatures.Well, it must be true then. More fear:
The report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program also warns that much of the western United States will be hotter in the future, with more frequent wildfires and a marked change in quality of life.
It says that stream trout fishing in eight to 10 western states likely will dry up, but doesn't say whether one of those states is Colorado.
The report was mandated by Congress and, unlike other recent governmental reports on climate change, wasn't edited by the White House before its release to the public, said Theo Stein, program director at the non-profit environmental consulting group, Resource Media.
The extra heat can exacerbate heart, kidney and lung diseases, leading to more serious illnesses and increased deaths, says the report. It also can make things rougher for diabetics and those with central nervous system disorders.Get how they figured it:
The heat could especially harm the elderly, the poor, the very young, outdoor laborers and anyone without air conditioning, the report said.
Dr. Kristie Ebi, lead author for the health-effects part of the report, said the authors examined the literature to arrive at assumptions on climate change and then analyzed what that meant for people. . . .Now I'm scared.
"What we learned is that the future is really going to be different than the past," she said.
"Look at Colorado, with West Nile Virus suddenly causing a lot of deaths. Or the pine beetle killing the forests. The warmer temperatures have allowed the pine beetles to replicate faster and do all that damage.Actually there were only seven deaths from West Nile Virus in Colorado in 2007, while 2003 was the worst year by far, with 63 out of a total of 83 deaths since the disease first appeared in the state in 2002. As for the pine bark beetle, the Colorado Springs Gazette noted last year that:
Anyway, after other dire predictions, the Rocky story concludes with the words of another impartial scientist:
Experts say the infestations happen regularly, [and] that the forest depends on the lodgepoles dying, followed by a fire that melts open the cones so seedlings can sprout.
"What we see in the ecosystem of the Rocky Mountains is one shaped by large, infrequent disturbances, like we're seeing now," said Dominik Kulakowski, an ecologist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. . . .
[T]he infestation is a natural part of the forest's cycle, and . . . forestwide, there is nothing that can or should be done about it.
Said Kulakowski, "If the outbreak is just left alone, the forest will regenerate like it has always regenerated."
Dr. Georges Benjamin, director of the Washington, D.C., based American Public Health Association, said warmer temperatures are going to be a huge challenge, but "people shouldn't despair that there is nothing they can do."
Healthy people ought to feel an obligation to drive fewer miles in their cars, walk more often, wear sweaters in the winter, turn the air conditioning down a few degrees in the summer — all to help their neighbors who are more at risk from air pollution and heat-related illnesses, he said.
"We don't want to be the thought police, but we've talked a lot about a community obligation to help others," he said.