Right now, Los Angeles is facing two pretty big problems: the years-long drought, and the recent introduction of the Zika virus. But health officials are warning that an even bigger problem is lurking in the future — one that isn’t very obvious right now, but which has the potential to cause catastrophic events.
According to the Los Angeles Times, global warming will likely become the next biggest health problem that California faces, especially in the southern half of the state.
The severe drought in California is one obvious effect of global warming. Even as rain begins streaming down onto the parched earth, the areas affected by the drought are more likely to face problems associated with flooding simply because the ground is too dry to soak up any water. For around five years now, state officials have been trying to address the problem in vain.
And now, as Zika spreads into the U.S., Southern California faces even more problems. The virus is transferred through mosquitoes and is currently wreaking havoc in multiple countries south of the U.S. If Zika had appeared on such a massive scale 10 years ago, Californians probably wouldn’t have had to worry about it.
But now that global warming has started heating up the average temperatures throughout the state, mosquitoes are traveling farther north. They prefer to live in warmer climates, and even more so in warm climates with high humidity.
Add California’s rainy winters to its increasing average temperature, and you get the perfect climate for Zika-borne mosquitoes. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Global warming is expected to cause a slew of other health problems. By 2050, it’s expected that Los Angeles’s average temperature will rise by at least five degrees. That would mean at least 22 days of extreme heat per year — which is a huge increase from the annual six days of extreme heat that the region experienced every year between 1980 and 2000.
Los Angeles is known for being one of the hottest regions in California, and it also receives a lot of direct sunlight as the ozone layer continues to diminish. Health experts have predicted that around 20% of all Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives; for a resident of Los Angeles, however, that risk is likely much higher. The heat alone — often up in the triple digits during summertime — is even worse in a pavement- and asphalt-covered metropolitan area like Los Angeles.
City officials are already looking for ways to make the city more sustainable and eco-friendly in an attempt to mitigate global warming. Even a small change — such as a temperature rise of four degrees instead of five degrees — can make a huge difference. But will these changes be enough?