Even reptiles adapted to hot environments can succumb to heat stress, a concern as the world warms, experts say.

Death by desiccation may be unpleasant, but it makes for a lovely corpse.


Such was the fate of an unlucky Indian chameleon that apparently died while trying to drink from a pipe that had been turned off. Writer and wildlife filmmaker Janaki Lenin witnessed the macabre scene recently in India.

According to Lenin’s posts, it seems the reptile expired while clutching the spigot, and was then quickly mummified by the intense tropical sun. Two tiny holes cut into the dried remains suggest that ants may have helped themselves to the animal's innards, completing the preservation process.

Even animals adapted to live in hot environments, like the chameleon, can succumb to heat stress, says Jeanine Refsnider, a herpetologist at the University of Toledo in Ohio. (Related: "Will Global Warming Heat Us Beyond Our Physical Limits?")

All animals “can handle temperatures up to a certain limit,” says Refsnider, “and if the temperatures get beyond that, your proteins actually start to unfold.”

“At the cellular level, your cells start to fall apart, and once that happens you can’t really reverse it.”

In what could be bad news for animals—and people—in already hot climates, heat waves are on the rise due to climate change. According to a new study, 30 percent of the world’s population is currently exposed to potentially deadly heat for 20 days per year or more. (Read: "Earth Hasn't Heated Up This Fast Since the Dinosaurs' End.")

Read more: Chameleon Mummified Alive by the Tropical Sun


Nasa has released a powerful animation mapping global warming trends between 1880 and 2015.

It shows the changing temparatures over the last 100 or so years using a rolling five-year average.

Read more: Animation: 100 years of global warming in less than a minute


Thousands of people are expected to attend the People’s Climate Movement march in Washington, D.C. and sister cities around the world this coming weekend. They are marching because actions taken to date by governments and others are not commensurate with the scale of climate impacts – both those already borne and those projected in the years to come.

It’s a good moment to reflect on the facts. What do we know about global climate change, and what impacts can we expect in the future? The following graphics speak volumes.

What is climate change?
Climate change is a long-term change in Earth’s weather patterns or average climate, including temperature and precipitation. While the climate has changed in the past, we are now seeing it change at an unprecedented rate. As a result of the build-up of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – due to our burning of fossil fuels, cutting down trees and other activities – global average temperature is now changing at a faster rate than at least over the past 1,000 years.

Read more: Climate Science, Explained in 10 Graphics


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