Global warming effects: More nasty bugs


This news can fit into curricula in several ways, in several courses: Insects have already evolved in response to climate shifts due to global warming.

The Boston Globe has a series on global warming, and a recent article detailed how mosquitoes on the Maine frontier have already changed their breeding seasons in response to warming weather.

A mosquito that can barely fly is one of only five known species that scientists say have already evolved because of global warming. The unobtrusive mosquito’s story illustrates a sobering consequence of climate change: The species best suited to adapting may not be the ones people want to survive.

Such news enhances biology studies of genetics and insects, geography studies of climate, animal dispersal patterns and disease and pest ranges (a subject more technically known as biogeography), and the articles lend urgency to studies of how governments react to natural crises, a topic suitable for government classes, economics, and U.S. and world history.

Global Warming illustration Click on the thumbnail to see four examples of genetic change credited to global warming. (Graphic by David Butler of the Boston Globe staff.)

Climate effects in New England cover a range of traditional New England activities that students should have a good time learning. For example, global warming has already damaged the business of tapping maple trees for the sap that makes maple syrup and maple candy. A lack of snow has made ice fishing rare on Lake Champlain (how does warming affect Champy, the monster?). Warm weather damages tourist venues set up to take advantage of changing tree colors in the autumn and winter snows. Blueberry crops are affected (can cranberries be far behind?).

The Boston Globe articles are much better than any treatment I have seen in any textbook, and certainly can rival some of the more dramatic treatments in Al Gore’s book, An Inconvenient Truth. They are more concise, and perhaps better suited to classroom use. The social and economic effects discussed offer the additional advantages that students can research the industries, and the claimed effects, to make their own judgments — a key part of the “critical thinking” that most state standards claim to be striving toward.

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