We drove to Brooklyn a few weekends ago to help our son celebrate his 30th birthday. It was a good visit, except for his coughing jags. He may be an adult, but I'm still his mom. I gave him no peace until he agreed to see a doctor.
His diagnosis? "Cough-variant asthma, which is likely triggered by allergies," my son wrote in an email. "It's not permanent, it'll probably go away. He [the doctor] gave me an inhaler for two weeks and some pills...."
Asthma, allergies, an inhaler? While these words are all too common in many households - and on a permanent basis - this is a startling diagnosis for someone with no history of either seasonal allergies or asthma.
Like many other New Yorkers this summer, my son is experiencing first-hand the costs and health hazards of climate change. According to allergists, last fall's heavy rains, combined standing water left by Hurricane Sandy has triggered a surge in pollen and mold problems that are causing an intense allergy season and introducing many of the area's residents to the joys of nasal congestion, watery, itchy eyes, and, yes, persistent coughs.
Superstorm Sandy's power and fury was whipped up and intensified by increased ocean temperatures due to global warming. Like most symptoms of climate change, its impact is long lasting, and has the potential to morph into something just as harmful as the event itself - like the ailments my son and other New Yorkers are experiencing this summer.
Those harmful impacts are being felt all across the country. While climate change is making the east coast wetter, it is having the opposite effect in the western part of the country where wildfires are raging out of control. According to the Huffington Post, while heat and fire have an obvious connection,
"...a changing climate may actually intensify fire seasons a variety of ways. Warmer, drier weather and earlier snow melts can lengthen fire's window of opportunity, for example, a predicted increase in lightning offers more chances to ignite the forest-turned-kindling."
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