From 10 to 30% of the world’s population suffers from hay fever – an allergy to flowering plants. For allergy sufferers, the sneezing season (e.g., in Europe) can last from spring to mid-autumn – and is gradually getting longer.
We’ve found a brilliant explanation of why morbidity is progressing and how people’s health is related to the problem of climate change. The author is Maria Gelman, co-founder of the “Now this way” sustainable consumption course.
If flowering is an irritation for allergy sufferers, then for plants, it is a method of reproduction. To reproduce, plants must transport pollen from a “male” plant to a “female” one. Some of them use pollinators for this, such as insects or animals. Others rely on the strength of the wind. But the chances that the wind will definitely transfer pollen from “boy” to “girl” are not great, so such plants release a lot of pollen into the air to increase the likelihood of such a hit.
When we inhale pollen, in some cases, the body can see in it not a harmless particle but an enemy that must be attacked to protect the body.
The immune system mistook the protein chains in the pollen for a similar protein material found in parasites. As a result, the body is “cleansed” of an imaginary disease by sneezing, secretion of fluid from the tear ducts, and other allergic manifestations.
Scientists draw attention to the fact that climate change directly affects the amount of pollen in the air – this is what leads to an increase in allergy sufferers worldwide. Why?
Factor number one: carbon dioxide
Phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium are considered the best flower supplements to stimulate flower growth, including flowering and increasing the number of seeds.
Carbon dioxide is also an essential plant nutrient: the higher the CO2 concentration, the more pollen the plants produce. Simply put, more food means more strength to reproduce.
Lewis Ziska, a researcher in the physiology of flowers at the US Department of Agriculture, claims that ragweed pollen was 280 parts per million in the pre-industrial era, and today the figure is 400 parts per million:
“We can see the effect of carbon dioxide on a small scale too: grass and ragweed produce more pollen near places where more gas is emitted, such as near highways.”
Ragweed is an American allergic weed. It came to Europe along with corn.
In addition to increasing pollen, CO2 increases the concentration of allergenic peptides in the pollen, according to Jeffrey Demaine, director of the Alaska Center for Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Peptides are substances consisting of two or more amino acid residues. It is these molecules that provoke the body’s immune system and cause an allergic reaction.
An increase in the number of peptides on one pollen grain increases the allergy itself. It turns out that carbon dioxide increases the amount of pollen and makes it more allergenic.
Factor number two: temperature rise
Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, trap heat at the Earth’s surface, and its average temperature in the lower atmosphere rises. This slight increase is very significant globally.
Higher temperatures extend the warm season: spring and summer become longer, and with them, the flowering period of plants, increasing the amount of pollen produced. Frosts come later, and it is frosts that suppress the spread of pollen from weeds, such as ragweed.
According to the forecasts of Leonard Baylori, due to these two factors, the amount of pollen will double by 2040! Additionally, Dr. Baylori states:
“Generally, the more allergens around you, the more sensitive you will be to them. People with hay fever may experience worsening symptoms, and people who have not had an allergy before may start to experience it. ”
Do more plants mean more oxygen?
In spring, pollen, which causes allergies, is produced by trees; in summer, the leading producer is grass, and in late summer and early autumn, weeds, especially ragweed, enter the arena.
It would seem that more pollen means more trees in the future, and ragweed can be tolerated because an increase in the number of plants promises us a beautiful scenario for saving the world, saturating it with oxygen, and saving from an ecological catastrophe.
Logic dictates that while plants “eat” carbon dioxide and produce their kind, they help reduce the amount of this gas in the atmosphere and have a “cooling” effect on the environment.
However, according to a study published in the journal Nature, rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperatures make the climate drier. A dry environment provokes stress in plants, due to which they cannot fully engage in photosynthesis – that is, they, on the contrary, emit less and less oxygen into the atmosphere.
AAFA International recommends the following actions if you have allergies (in case you’re living not in the desert region – Ecolife):
- Wear a hat – your hair works like a sponge, collecting all the pollen.
- Do not open windows to rooms and clean the air with air conditioners.
- Rinse the nasal mucosa regularly and remove pollen grains from it.
- Change and wash your clothes if you have been outside for a long time. Try to dry your clothes indoors.
- Take off your shoes before going home.
All this does not mean that we are doomed: it would be unreasonable to rely solely on plants when we have science, biotechnology, and other achievements of human intelligence.
What can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
Coping with climate change is the main challenge of the 21st century. In its 2019 report on gas emissions, the UN warned that to keep the Earth’s temperature change within 2° C, efforts to slow global warming must be tripled, and if we want to keep the warming within 1.5° C, then we must all do five times the effort.
Plants are one of the most effective weapons to reduce air pollution in the city: vertical gardens, roof plants, and other landscaping methods.
There are two vectors of response to climate change. Mitigating the effects of global climate change refers to all proactive measures that need to be taken to reduce or remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. And adaptation will make our life possible in a warming environment. Italian architect Elena Farne believes:
“Trees are an affordable technology that can do both of these things. They can absorb, store and reuse exhaust gases, and at the same time, they help reduce the temperature by releasing moisture into the air, which makes it cooler. “
Another exciting feature of plants is that they create air currents when planted correctly in the right place, as they create a shade in which the vapor cools and encourages air movement. The wind can also help reduce the temperature in the city.
Scientists are actively doing bioengineering work with our green neighbors on the planet. Dr. Joan Chori develops special plants that will store more carbon dioxide in the roots than usual. A hardened root system will also help slow soil erosion, another side effect of global warming.
How each of us can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions:
- Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth and lathering your body.
- Wash items in cold water.
- Use public transportation, bicycles, or walk more often.
- Reduce the number of movements that you make in the car.
- Reduce the number of flights.
· Plant a tree.