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Monday, April 17, 2017

Allergies will be even more miserable in the future — thanks to global warming

Allergies will be even more miserable in the future — thanks to global warming

It’s spring in California: the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and my sinuses are so swollen they might just pop right out of my face.

I’m one of the 36 million or so Americans lucky enough to suffer from seasonal allergies. And experts tell me that I might suffer from this eye-itching, sinus-pounding misery even more in the future. Warming global temperatures may lead to longer blooming seasons, and rising CO2 levels could help weeds and trees grow more, and faster. That could mean more allergy-causing pollen, according to a growing crop of studies. This is especially bad news for people with allergic asthma, who can suffer from life-threatening attacks.

Seasonal allergies, also known as hay fever, are about sex — plant sex, that is. To reproduce, many (but not all) plants need to transfer pollen from the male plant onto a female flower. Some rely on pollinators like bees for this. “But some plants want to do it on the cheap, and they have the wind pollinate,” Lewis Ziska, a plant biologist with the US Department of Agriculture, tells The Verge. The problem is that wind pollination is not very efficient, Ziska says. So, some plants like ragweed have to pump out a billion-odd grains of pollen to ensure that a few land on a female flower.

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