Sure, allergies will increase. There will be a longer growing season, and more pollen. Tropical diseases? Yup, they'll spread into new areas with the bugs that carry them. And asthma? We can see that: After all, more heat will make smog worse, sending asthmatics into coughing fits.
But kidney stones?
According to new research, kidney stones will affect more Americans as the climate warms. That's right: Global warming could indirectly affect your internal organs. USA Today splashes the news on its front page.
How are kidney stones linked to the global climate?
Turns out, people in the Southeast get 50% more kidney stones than those living in the Northeast, because heat can lead to dehydration, a key cause of painful kidney stones. As the "kidney stone belt" expands northward with the warming climate, an additional 1.6 million cases could result by 2050, according to the research, by University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
And the cost of treating kidney stones will rise, too -- by 25% or $900 million annually by 2050.
The study shows another surprising consequence of failing to slow climate change. It is also a reminder that the cost of doing nothing may well be greater than the cost of action. We may not recognize the costs, in health care and infrastructure, as clearly as we would a rise in energy prices, but they would affect our society nonetheless.
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