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Debasish Ghosh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Debasish Ghosh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Heat Waves Could Make South Asia Unlivable by 2100

Debasish Ghosh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Debasish Ghosh, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scientists say increasing greenhouse gas emissions in densely populated parts of South Asia will push temperatures past the "upper limit on human survivability." They published their findings in the journal Science Advances.

The human body can only withstand so much heat, and the authors of the current paper note that 35°C (95°F) pushes that upper limit. Anything above that will result in death "even for the fittest of humans under shaded, well-ventilated conditions."

This 95°F maximum is what's called a wet bulb (TW) measurement. Like the heat index, TW considers humidity as well as air temperature, which means it's a more accurate measurement of how well our bodies can naturally cool themselves down. The muggier the climate, the higher the TW. And in places like India, the TW is pretty darn high.

The research team combined climate data from Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka with information about current and estimated future greenhouse gas emissions in those countries.

With these combined data points, they created two possible scenarios: the "business as usual" model, in which the region's rapidly growing economy continues to produce more and more air pollution; and the "mitigation" model, in which something is done to slow, if not stop, emissions.

Neither outcome looked particularly good, but there was a big difference between them. The business-as-usual model indicated that average temperatures will easily reach TW 95°F by the year 2100. For the mitigation model, that number was closer to TW 88°F.

Heat map of India projecting temperatures from 1975 to 2100.
Historic and projected temperatures from 1975 (L) to 2100 (R).
Im et al. 2017. Science Advances.

These were just the total averages. Some regions were far worse off than others. In either situation, poorer agricultural communities in India will be hit the hardest—a particularly dangerous outcome in areas where most people live without air conditioning.

"This disparity raises important environmental justice questions beyond the scope of this study," the authors write. "The findings … may present a significant dilemma for India because the continuation of this current trajectory of rising emissions will likely impose significant added human health risks to some of its most vulnerable populations."

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Health
Watch a Tree Release a Massive "Pollen Bomb" Into the Air
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In case your itchy, watery eyes hadn't already tipped you off, spring is in the air. Some trees release up to a billion pollen grains apiece each year, and instead of turning into baby trees, many of those spores end up in the noses of allergy sufferers. For a visual of just how much pollen is being released into our backyards, check out the video below spotted by Gothamist.

This footage was captured by Millville, New Jersey resident Jennifer Henderson while her husband was clearing away brush with a backhoe. He noticed one tree was blanketed in pollen, and decided to bump into it to see what would happen. The result was an explosion of plant matter dramatic enough to make you sniffle just by looking at it.

"Pollen bombs" occur when the weather starts to warm up after a prolonged winter, prompting trees and grasses to suddenly release a high concentration of pollen in a short time span. Wind, temperature, and humidity levels all determine the air's pollen count for any given day, but allergy season settles down around May.

After determining that your congestion is the result of allergies and not a head cold, there are a few steps you can take to stave off symptoms before they appear. Keep track of your area's pollen report throughout the week, and treat yourself with antihistamines or nasal spray on days when you know it will be particularly bad outside. You can also keep your home a pollen-free zone by closing all the windows and investing in an air purifier. Check out our full list of seasonal allergy-fighting tips here.

[h/t Gothamist]

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environment
The UK Wants to Ban Wet Wipes, And Parents Aren't Happy About It
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The United Kingdom has grown determined in recent years to reduce consumption of single-use products that pollute the environment. In April, fast food restaurant fans were dismayed to hear that plastic drinking straws are being phased out; plastic cotton swabs are also on the chopping block. Now, users of wet wipes that remove makeup and clean infant bottoms are looking at a future where reaching for one of the disposable cloths may not be so easy.

The BBC reports that wet wipes containing non-biodegradable plastic are being targeted for elimination in the coming years. The wipes contribute to “fatbergs,” giant impactions of waste that can slow or block movement in sewage systems. By some estimates, 93 percent of blockages are caused by consumers flushing the wet wipes into toilets despite package instructions to throw them in the garbage.

Not everyone is backing the move, however. Jeremy Freedman, who manufactures the wipes under the name Guardpack, says that the wipes are useful to health care workers and food preparation employees. He argues their use also conserves water normally reserved for handwashing.

The most vocal critics might be parents, who use the wipes to clean their baby’s bottom following a diaper change. Sentiments like “ban the fools that flush them!” are circulating on Twitter. The UK is looking to phase out the wipes and other problematic plastic products over the next 25 years.

[h/t BBC]

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