As average temperatures rise, allergies will continue to rise, but only up to a certain point, according to Rutgers' Bielory. Eventually, pollen counts will hit a plateau and may even decline. "It cannot continue on a linear scale," he said. "If heat goes up to a certain temperature, plants will die. It will hit a breaking point."
USDA's Ziska said increased carbon dioxide levels will make allergenic weeds more difficult to control with herbicides. The solution is instead to make the environment more hospitable to native plant species and less prone to weed infestations, according to Steven Apfelbaum, a senior ecologist with Applied Ecological Services Inc., an environmental restoration firm. "Plan A would be to restore the land and the ecosystems so they are healthy and they can tolerate and are not as vulnerable to the unpredictable weather that has been tossed at them," he said.
For people with allergies, the best way to prevent reactions is to stay informed. Bielory is developing iPollenCount, an iPhone app to track pollen. Using this information, people can schedule their outdoor activities to minimize their exposure on high-risk days. More broadly, Bielory said people need to take steps to minimize their emissions, not only to curb short-term pollution, but to slow the long-term climate changes that are driving environmental health risks.
Still, there is no rapid way to reverse these allergy trends, and the risks will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. "My perspective is that we can mitigate all we want but have to learn to adapt and, more so, prepare," said Bielory.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500