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Study Suggests the Climate Change has Adverse Effects on Fertility

Scientists suggest that global warming could have detrimental effects on sperm health and viability, and therefore male fertility as a whole.

December 17, 2018
Katie Visco

Scientists almost unanimously agree that climate change is a huge threat to the Earth and the future of human civilization, suggesting that without major changes to how humans treat the environment, a climate change disaster could approach sooner than we ever anticipated. But recent studies have shown that climate change isn’t just a threat to our planet, but to the population and our ability to reproduce as a whole. Scientists suggest that global warming - based on a study conducted with beetles (yes, creepy crawlies) and studies conducted with other mammals - could have detrimental effects on sperm health and viability, and therefore male fertility as a whole.

Here, we’ll break it down for you, starting with a quick look at climate change, a lesson of anatomy, and what these seemingly minimal changes could be disastrous.

A Quick Breakdown of Climate Change

Why seemingly small increases in global temperature is a problem

Macro Photography of Jewel Beetle on Green Leaf

On a day-to-day basis, we don’t think much of a few degrees increase in the temperature. It’s easy to chalk up extreme weather as an annual occurrence, and think of heat waves as a nice companion to your trip to the Carolinas. But the truth of the matter is that these changes in weather are a result of global warming (more scientifically known as climate change), or the steady increase in global temperature due to a variety of confounding variables related to poor environmental treatment.

In the past decade we have seen a global temperature increase of about 1.8 degree fahrenheit, on average. Uncoincidentally, we have experienced record-setting storms, forest fires, coral bleaching, and numerous heat waves across the world. Scientists project that without strict environmental regulation and changes to our everyday lives to protect that planet, that we could reach an increase of 2.7 degrees fahrenheit in as little as 11 years, leading to climate changes that are even more dangerous to humans and our planet as a whole.

How Animal Anatomy is NOT Optimized for Climate Change

Body temperature and temperature of surrounding areas is vital for living creatures to thrive

Woman Kissing Man

Next, we’ll throw it back to high school health class. The anatomical differences between men and women’s reproductive systems are evident, but it’s important to note that the human body has developed and been optimized to survival as individuals and as a species. Reproductive Organs for women - notably eggs, ovaries, and the uterus - are located inside the body for safekeeping and temperature regulation necessary for reproduction on a woman’s end. However, the testes are located outside the body for the sake of temperature regulation. The scrotum contracts and comes closer or further from the based on temperature to make sure that sperm are kept at the proper temperature for survival; if sperm are too hot or too cold, they will die.

The study revealed that global warming had detrimental effects of the sperm viability of the beetles studied. Since beetles are one of the most common species on Earth, they could be an important asset in understanding how climate change affects a variety of species. As the temperature was raised (in the form of a simulated heat wave), beetle sperm was no longer viable for reproduction. Of course, beetles are smaller and likely less adapted to regulate bodily temperature than the human reproductive system, but this shows that even small increases in temperature can decrease sperm viability in living creatures.

Putting it All Together: Effects of Global Warming and Sperm Viability

Small and Large Scale Issues in Global Warming and Fertility

Person Holding World Globe Facing Mountain

While we acknowledge that humans have significant reproductive difference from beetles, it can be noted that humans are also sensitive to temperature regarding overall health and reproductive health. Additionally, we may only be at the beginning of a climate change disaster. If the temperature continues to increase (at an increasingly rapid rate), human may not be able to continue to adapt to temperature changes that allow for temperature regulation of the reproductive system.

But if we take a step back from looking exclusively at human reproduction, we can see that global warming’s effects on species lower on the food change could long-term lead to a collapse of the food change and a variety of other environmental issues. Since we rely so heavily on smaller insects to pollinate, reproduce, and manage act as food for large members of the food chain, it’s important to make sure we are preserving an environment in which they can reproduce at natural rates. If we cannot support an ecosystem capable of supporting life of tiny creatures, larger creatures like humans will eventually see the issues of climate change more directly.

Overall, it’s important to note that the choices we make in our daily lives have greater effects on ourselves, our ecosystems, and our futures than we could ever anticipate. So for now, we recommend making small changes in your life to preserve the Earth and as a result, your own fertility.

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