Climate Change Means More Mosquitoes

Buzz buzz

The mosquito. Lauren Holden. CC BY

The most dangerous creature in the world is the humble mosquito. This tiny insect, easily crushed between thumb and forefinger, is man’s greatest predator. It has attacked me, my daughter and has killed people I know.

I hate mosquitoes, and climate change makes them stronger than ever.

In fact, they’re coming for you.

Life With A Predator

The American Mosquito by José Guadalupe Posada. Public domain.

Our kids barely play outside anymore. It wasn’t always like this, but every year the temperature gets higher, the rains get more unpredictable, and the mosquito problem gets worse. It’s not the mosquitoes so much as what they carry.

What we’re afraid of is dengue fever.

I’ve had dengue, my wife has had it twice, my infant daughter had it recently — it’s just something you can’t avoid. We use creams, we avoid the outdoors at certain times, we close off our house — but it only takes one bite.

The scary thing is some cases of dengue just become hemorrhagic. You start bleeding internally and your organs shut down and you die. It happens to children, young people, the old. It’s just a roll of the dice, with an emphasis on die. It’s every parent’s worst fear.

Our daughter had the hemorrhagic type and she was under constant observation in hospital. But there’s not much more you can do. They monitor every drop of liquid in and out to see if internal bleeding has started but there’s no other treatment or cure. We just watched, waited and prayed and she came out OK. But this year 74 people have died. It’s terrifying.

This is life with a predator.

It sucks.

Life With Climate Change

Traditional Japanese women in a mosquito net tent. Utamaro Kitagawa. Public Domain.

Climate change makes it worse. The biggest immediate problem is that climate change has broken our monsoon. We get less rainfall overall, but it’s more extreme, for reasons I explain here. The result is flooding, which means pools of stagnant water, which means more breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

We’re in the middle of a monsoon and our usual habitable garden is a death trap. Today when I came home I could swarms of mosquitoes buzzing against our back door. We usually fumigate and spray down the vegetation, but it’s pointless when it rains every day.

I pick up an electrified tennis racket (amazing invention) and zap dozens of them to death, walking up and down the verandah. Their bodies smoke on the wires, leaving an acrid smell, an occasional spark. It’s satisfying but ultimately futile.

As long as it floods the mosquitoes will breed. As long as they breed, they’ll spread dengue. As long as there’s dengue, we’ll be afraid. And it’s getting worse every year.

Soon this may be your fate as well.

As you can see in the map below, the range of mosquitoes spreads (and changes) and the climate warms. As northern temperatures get warmer, we are inviting mosquitoes in, for at least a few months a year.

They’ll be biting your ass soon

This map and info is from researchers from the Georgetown University Medical Center.

First thing is that the colors apply to the months when the mosquitoes will be biting your ass. Red means they’re biting all year, and blue is just one month out of twelve. As you can see, under RCP 8.5 (business as usual), Ae. aegyptis mosquitoes will spread up to the UK by 2080.

Parts of India and all will actually have less mosquitoes, because they will be too hot for life in general, including human. My little island Sri Lanka seems pretty uniformly screwed.

The fact is that unless we stop fossil fuels, then mosquitos carrying dengue, Zika and God knows what else will spread to a billion more people than the 6 billion people currently affected. So basically everyone. This is coming for everyone unless we change.

This Is A Bad Life

Mosquito headnet with armholes. Photograph, 1902/1918 (?). Wellcome Collection. CC BY

I don’t wish this on anyone. I have been with my child in hospital. I have seen a friend’s child in ICU, getting blood transfusions because they were hemorrhaging so fast. I have gotten notes at our preschool when a child’s mother died.

This is no way to live, and we cannot in any conscience inflict this on another billion people.

Climate change isn’t some abstract thing, and it’s not in the future. Climate is life, and when we wreck it we are hurting ourselves. Right now.

Our greatest predator will spread across a warming earth. It will creep through your doors and windows, buzz in your ears, and it will kill you as it has been killing my people for the past decade.

Please communicate, organize, strike and help us fight climate change. I’m telling you, it won’t be good. Among other things, our greatest predator lies in wait.

Sadie J. Ryan, Colin J. Carlson, Erin A. Mordecai, Leah R. Johnson. Global expansion and redistribution of Aedes-borne virus transmission risk with climate change. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 2019; 13 (3): e0007213 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0007213