Global climate change isn’t just going to make our planet hotter — it’s going to make it sicker. That was the finding of a wide-ranging study of world ecosystems, published in today’s issue of Science and showing that warmer temperatures have sparked a plague of epidemics in plants and animals. From oysters to oak trees, species are suffering from new diseases or more virulent versions of old ones as warm temperatures enable disease-bearing organisms to survive longer or migrate to new latitudes and elevations. Scientists first proposed the link between climate change and disease over a decade ago, but the connection has been a controversial one, especially vis a vis human diseases. The spread of illness among humans is complicated by so many factors, including poverty, sanitation, and the quality of the public health infrastructure in the affected area, that many scientists have been reluctant to view global warming as a significant element. The new study largely sidesteps that issue by focusing primarily on plants and non-human animals, but some scientists find its implications for world ecological health sobering.
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