Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing our planet today. The Earth's temperature is rising at an alarming rate, leading to a range of consequences that are having a serious impact on the planet and its inhabitants.
From mass extinction and natural disasters to food and water shortages and negative impacts on human health, the consequences of climate change are far-reaching and alarming. If we do not take action now, these consequences are only likely to become worse in the future.
It is imperative that we take urgent action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
1. Earth Temperature Alarming Increase
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.2°F (0.7°C) since the late 19th century, and the rate of warming has nearly doubled in the past 35 years. This may not seem like a lot, but it is having a significant impact on the planet.
The main cause of this warming is the increase in greenhouse gases—such as carbon dioxide—in the Earth’s atmosphere. These gases trap heat from the sun, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise.
The main source of these gases is human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and agriculture. In 2019, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide reached a record high of 414.7 parts per million (ppm).
The consequences of this warming are far-reaching and alarming. For example, rising temperatures are causing the melting of land-based ice, such as glaciers and polar ice caps, leading to a rise in sea levels. According to the IPCC, global sea levels rose by an average of 0.13 inches (3.2 mm) per year between 1993 and 2019.
One example is the small island nation of Kiribati, located in the Pacific Ocean. Due to rising sea levels, many of the low-lying areas of Kiribati are now regularly flooded during high tides, and the entire country is at risk of being completely submerged within the next few decades. The government of Kiribati has already purchased land in Fiji to relocate its citizens if necessary.
Another example is the city of Miami, which is also at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels. Miami is particularly vulnerable due to its low elevation and the fact that much of the city is built on porous limestone, which allows water to easily pass through. Rising sea levels have already caused frequent flooding in Miami, and the situation is expected to worsen in the coming years.
2. A Mass Extinction Event
According to a report by the United Nations, the Earth is facing a mass extinction event, with species disappearing at a rate that is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years. This loss of biodiversity is alarming, as it can have negative impacts on ecosystems and the services they provide.
The main cause of this loss of biodiversity is human activity, such as habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. According to the report:
“The direct causes of biodiversity loss — habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and invasive species — are accelerating. Climate change is exacerbating these impacts.”
For example, rising temperatures are causing the distribution of many species to shift, and some species are struggling to adapt to these changes. Warmer temperatures can also lead to the spread of diseases and pests, which can have negative impacts on certain species.
The loss of biodiversity is not only a concern from an environmental standpoint, but also from an ethical standpoint, as many people value the existence of a diverse range of species for its own sake. The extinction of certain species, such as the African elephant, which is at risk due to poaching and habitat loss, can also have cultural and economic consequences for the communities that rely on them.
One of the most astonishing and terrible examples of a mass extinction event in recent years is the ongoing crisis facing the world’s coral reefs. Coral reefs are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and they are vital to the health of the world’s oceans.
However, due to rising sea temperatures and acidification caused by climate change, coral reefs around the world are dying at an alarming rate. In fact, it is estimated that over 50% of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost, and the situation is expected to worsen in the coming years.
The loss of coral reefs would have devastating consequences for the millions of species that depend on them for survival, as well as for the people who rely on them for food, income, and protection from storms.
3. More Frequent and Severe Natural Disasters
Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe natural disasters, such as hurricanes, heatwaves, and droughts. These events can be destructive and costly, and can have serious consequences for people, communities, and economies.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the United States has increased in recent years, averaging nearly six per year from 2015 to 2019.
These disasters can cause damage to infrastructure, loss of property, and loss of life, as well as indirect costs such as lost productivity, lost income, increased healthcare costs, and other expenses related to the disaster.
Indirect costs can be difficult to quantify, but they can have a significant impact on the economy and on individuals and communities affected by a natural disaster.
For example, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 resulted in damages estimated at over $125 billion and the loss of over 100 lives. The cost of these disasters can be significant and can strain economies, putting a burden on taxpayers.
One example is the Australian bushfires that occurred in the summer of 2019–2020. These fires were some of the worst in Australian history, with an estimated 18.6 million acres burned and over 3,400 homes destroyed.
The fires also had a devastating impact on wildlife, with an estimated one billion animals killed or displaced. The cause of the fires was a combination of record-breaking high temperatures, drought, and strong winds, all of which were exacerbated by climate change.
Another example is the California wildfires that have become increasingly common in recent years. In 2020, the state experienced its worst wildfire season on record, with over 10,000 wildfires burning over four million acres of land.
The fires were caused by a combination of high temperatures, dry conditions, and strong winds, all of which were made worse by climate change. The fires caused widespread destruction and loss of life, and the impact on the state’s economy was estimated to be in the billions of dollars.
4. Food and Water Shortages
Climate change is having an impact on the availability of food and water. For example, droughts, which are becoming more common and more severe as a result of climate change, can impact the irrigation of crops and the availability of clean water for drinking and irrigation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
“Water scarcity affects more than 40% of the global population and is expected to rise as temperatures continue to increase. Water scarcity, combined with inadequate sanitation, is a major public health threat, particularly in developing countries.”
In 2018, the World Bank estimated that water scarcity affects four billion people globally and that this number is expected to rise.
Food shortages can also occur as a result of climate change. For example, droughts can lead to crop failures, and rising temperatures can make it more difficult to grow certain crops in certain regions. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO):
“The impacts of climate change on agriculture, forestry, and fishing are complex and varied, but the evidence suggests that these sectors will be adversely affected in many regions of the world.”
In 2018, the FAO estimated that 821 million people globally were suffering from hunger and that climate change was a contributing factor.
One of the most alarming examples of the impact of climate change on food and water shortages is the ongoing drought in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2017, the city faced the prospect of becoming the first major city in the world to run out of water due to a prolonged drought.
The drought, which began in 2015 and lasted until 2018, was the worst in over a century. It was caused by a combination of low precipitation and high temperatures, both of which were exacerbated by climate change.
The drought had a devastating impact on Cape Town’s agriculture, with crop yields falling by as much as 60% in some areas. This led to widespread food shortages and increased prices for certain types of produce.
The drought also caused severe water shortages, with the city implementing strict water restrictions and rationing. At its peak, residents were only allowed to use 50 liters of water per day, and many had to queue for hours to access clean water.
5. Negative Impacts on Human Health
Climate change is having a range of negative impacts on human health, including the spread of diseases, heat-related illness, and mental health issues.
For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), climate change is increasing the range and transmission of certain diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever. Warmer temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns can also lead to the spread of waterborne diseases, such as cholera.
Heat-related illness is also a concern as a result of climate change. Heatwaves, which are becoming more common and more intense as a result of climate change, can have serious health consequences, particularly for vulnerable populations such as the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
In addition to the physical impacts of climate change, there are also mental health consequences to consider. The stress and trauma caused by natural disasters and the loss of homes and communities can lead to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Overall, the negative impacts of climate change on human health are significant and far-reaching, and they are likely to increase as the Earth’s temperature continues to rise.
One example of the devastating impact of heat waves is the European hea twave of 2003, which was one of the deadliest in recorded history. The heat wave, which was caused by a combination of high temperatures and a persistent high-pressure system, resulted in an estimated 70,000 excess deaths across Europe. The majority of the deaths occurred in France, where the heat wave was particularly severe.
Heat waves can cause a variety of health problems, including heat stroke, dehydration, and respiratory problems. They can also exacerbate existing health conditions, such as heart disease and asthma. The impact of heat waves is expected to worsen as climate change continues to increase global temperatures.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
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