In the search for that silver lining, it turns out that global warming might boost drug company stock prices.
The National Wildlife Federation released Extreme Allergies and Global Warming earlier today. This (extremely) well documented summary report (pdf) starkly lays out the facts: global warming will make conditions worse for allergy sufferers. In fact, while global warming has almost certainly already made allergy conditions worse, we've only seen the tip of the iceberg so far.
- Longer growing seasons enables greater pollen and other allergen production over more extended time frames.
"In one study, a 30 day earlier arrival of spring resulted in a 54.8 percent in crease in ragweed pollen production." [Note: the best measurements are that spring has advanced by 10-14 days over the past 20 years in the northern hemisphere.]
- Disrupted weather patterns and growing conditions favor weed species with greater pollen and allergen production.
- Warmer temperatures fosters more intense pollen and other allergen production.
- Increased Carbon Dioxide levels intensify allergen potency
"One study found that ...t he allergenic protein in ragweed increased by 70 percent when co2 levels were increased from current levels of about 385 ppm to 600 ppm, the levels expected by mid-century if emissions are not reduced."
- Increased Carbon Dioxide levels spur increased pollen and other allergen production.
"pollen production is projected to increase by 60-100 percent by around 2085 from this carbon dioxide increase alone"
Add these all together and we're looking at not a few percentage points increase in ragweed allergens (the primary cause of allergy suffering in the United States) but several hundred percent increase.
And, the impact is not just to ragweed but also fungal production (about a four-fold increase with doubling CO2 levels), tree pollen, etc ... Oh, of course, poison ivy gets worse in a warming world, with a more allergic form of urushiol being produced, with faster growth, over a longer portion of the year.
Considering this leads to some inescapable conclusions: time to stock up on Benadryl and time to consider buying some drug company stocks, since could be of greater value in a higher CO2 levels, warming world ...
The United States economy loses some $11.2 billion in medical costs and some $700 million in lost productivity per year to hay fever suffering each year. What will be the Global Warming multiplier?
The U.S. economy loses over 14 million school days, over 14 million work days, over $15 billion in medical costs and over $5 billion in lost earnings a year due to asthma. What will be the Global Warming multiplier?
As NWF notes:
These potential impacts of global warming could have a significant economic impact: allergies and asthma already cost the United States nearly $33 billion annually in direct health care costs and lost productivity.
NOTE: This report is part of an NWF series on extreme weather due to Global Warming led by NWF scientist Dr Amanda Staudt. Other reports have included:
Since the 1970s, December-February temperature increases have ranged from 1 to 2 degrees in the Pacific Northwest to about 4 degrees in the Northeast to more than 6 degrees in Alaska. Winters are getting shorter, too. Spring arrives 10-14 days earlier than it did just 20 years ago. Many nasty pests are expanding further north or are no longer being kept in check by frosts or sufficiently cold temperatures.
More extremely hot summer days are projected for every part of the country, and 30 large cities are especially vulnerable ... "Global warming is one of the gravest health emergencies facing humanity. It's life-threatening and it's affecting us now," said Dr. Peter Wilk, MD, executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility. "The science confirms that the frequency and duration of heat waves has increased significantly over the last 50 years. In the United States, heat waves already kill more people during a typical year than floods, tornadoes and earthquakes combined. Given these worsening trends, taking decisive action to stop global warming becomes a medical necessity."
Despite the relative rarity of droughts in the second half of the 20th century, historic records show that regular droughts are more typical for the Southeast. Global warming suggests more is yet to come--continued climate changes will potentially cause both more extremely dry periods and more heavy rainfall events. And, sea level rise could contaminate critical underground freshwater reserves.
More catastrophic wildfires just waiting to happen. This is the situation now facing the American West. Wildfire frequency, severity, and damages are increasing because of rising temperatures, drying conditions, and more lightning brought by global warming, combined with decades of fire suppression that allowed unsafe fuel loads to accumulate, a severe bark beetle infestation that is rapidly decimating trees, and ever expanding human settlements in and near forests.
In the Midwest and Northeast, big storms that historically would only be seen once every 20 years are projected to happen as much as every 4 to 6 years by the end of the 21st century. At the same time, shifts in snowfall patterns, the onset of spring, and river-ice melting may all exacerbate flooding risks.
If there is any significant criticism to lay against these studies (today's and several others) is that they are too focused on tomorrow (or even the day after tomorrow) without making it crystal clear that the damage is already upon us. Earlier today, someone complained to me that this is the worst allergy season they'd ever had ... don't know, could that have something to do with constantly increasing Co2 levels, warmer temperatures, and longer growing seasons? (Sigh, just as with any specific weather event, it is impossible to say "Global Warming caused that sneeze" but it seems appropriate to state that "Global Warming is creating the conditions for you to sneeze more ...")