Smaller people? 8 unlikely impacts of climate change

1. Birds discolor

Recent research from two French universities suggests that bird feathers discolor due to climate change. The study followed the blue tit population of southern France for 15 years. Blue tits can be recognized by their special colours: a blue crest and a yellow breast.

But what turned out? The birds studied look (on average) less colorful now than they did fifteen years ago. More specifically, the brightness and intensity of their feathers has decreased, the researchers said. “Our research suggests that environmental changes, especially climate change, are the main reason for the discolorations,” said David López-Idiáquez, one of the authors of the study.

At first glance it may seem like a harmless consequence of climate change, but nothing could be further from the truth. The feather colors of blue tits play an important role in their mating patterns. The intensity of the feather colors is an important factor for the birds when choosing a partner.

2. The Netherlands, wine country?

The average temperature in the Netherlands has risen by 1.1 degrees Celsius over the past thirty years. The number of vineyards has grown from 7 in 1997 to over 170 in 2019. Coincidence? No, says Hans Manschot, owner of Domain Hof Detharding vineyard in the Achterhoek, in this article. “At the moment, the climate in the Netherlands is comparable to that of the French Alsace thirty years ago. This means that you see a grape like Pinot Noir, which is traditionally grown in Burgundy, more and more often in the Netherlands. Twenty years ago, that couldn’t be done.”

The number of hours of sunshine in the Netherlands has also increased in recent decades. This also makes the Netherlands an increasingly suitable wine region. Sunlight provides a thicker skin with more colours, aromas and flavors. And that makes for a tastier wine.

3. People shrink

If we are to believe researcher Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh, climate change will shrink people. His reasoning: smaller mammals can cope better with high(er) temperatures. In his book The Rise and Reign of the Mammals writes Brusatte that animals in warmer parts of the world are often already smaller than in colder areas.

“That’s not to say that every animal species is getting smaller due to climate change,” he told The Guardian. “But it seems to be a common survival trick, when the temperature rises quite quickly. Can humans become dwarfs? I think that’s certainly plausible.”

4. More and more sick (and more and more tick bites)

Researchers at the University of Hawaii recently concluded that more than half of known human pathogenic (microorganism or biological particle that can cause infectious disease, ed.) diseases will become more common as greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.

Because of the consequences of climate change, the diseases can spread in more ways (and more often). The study linked almost all of the impacts of climate change (such as global warming, flooding, drought, etc.) with the ways in which pathogenic diseases can spread.

Animals and insects that carry diseases are also advancing due to climate change. In addition, their distribution area is increasing, they occur in increasing numbers and are active for longer.

A good example is the tick. It is being observed in increasingly northern areas and more frequently. This is partly due to global warming. In areas where there used to be no warm periods (which need ticks to survive), the climate is now favorable for the insects. In addition, the winters become milder, making it easier for larvae to survive the season.

5. More turbulence while flying

The chance of a comfortable flight to your favorite holiday destination is getting smaller. Climate change is causing more and more intense turbulence, says Doctor Paul Williams of the University of Reading against The Guardian. At altitudes where passenger aircraft mainly fly (10 to 12 kilometres), different airflow layers move increasingly faster relative to each other. The reason for this: the increasing CO2 content in the atmosphere.

When these air bodies meet at different speeds, it can lead to violent turbulence. This phenomenon is also called clear sky turbulence, because there are no visual cues (such as clouds) announcing the turbulence. “It is expected that there will be more and more incidents due to clear sky turbulence,” Williams said.

6. Cultural heritage is taking a hit

Ancient ruins, temple complexes and other tourist attractions are at increased risk of damage due to climate change. A good example are the world famous statues on Easter Island. Rapa Nui (the island where the statues are located) will increasingly have to deal with water shortages, coastal flooding and erosion, according to UNEP and UNESCO. Many of the statues are located right on the coast. Increasingly higher and more intense waves will damage the plateaus on which the statues are located, which can cause the statues to fall over in the long run.

7. Migrating Clouds

Clouds play an important role in the climate. On the one hand, they have a cooling effect, because they reflect sunlight. On the other hand, they can actually cause rising temperatures, because they absorb and ‘reflect’ the heat radiated from the earth’s surface. We do not know exactly what role clouds play in the climate issue. But it is clear that they play an important role.

When a 2016 study suggested that clouds are migrating to the poles due to climate change, that was seen as bad news by the scientific community. There is less sunlight at the poles, so that clouds reflect less sunlight in the long run and the climate problem increases.

8. More People Get Diabetes

A study by the Leiden University Medical Center in 2016 already pointed to the danger of climate change for public health. The scientists involved concluded that the United States will eventually have to deal with 100 thousand extra diabetes cases per year if global warming continues on the same footing.

The researchers came to that conclusion by comparing the annual number of diabetes patients per US state with the annual temperature rise. The conclusion: for every degree that it gets warmer, an average US state will have to deal with 2.9 extra diabetes patients per 10,000 inhabitants.

How is that possible? Previous scientific studies have shown that the metabolism of people in colder climates is higher. In other words, when the temperature rises, our metabolism slows down. And that means more sugar in our bloodstream.

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