Climate change is impacting various spheres of everyday living. It is one of the biggest issues facing us today. From shifting weather patterns to rising sea levels that have made certain regions around the globe increasingly prone to flooding, the largely negative effects of climate change are an existential threat to planet earth.
Scientists have since established that human activity is 95% responsible for climate change, using earth-orbiting satellites and other similar technologies. The studies covered many years of data and included processes such as drawing ice cores from (Antarctica and Greenland) as well as analyzing ancient evidence in coral reefs, tree rings, and ocean sediments.
The studies showed that the global surface temperature has risen by more than 0.8°C since 1880. Without adequate efforts to combat climate change, the global surface temperature will rise by another 4°C.
The State of Our Atmosphere
Our atmosphere is designed to keep some of the sun’s warmth and ensure that the earth remains inhabitable—thanks to greenhouse gases (GHGs). These gases (including CO2, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide) occur naturally and have been essential to the success of life on earth.
However, human activity such as deforestation, industrialization and large scale agriculture means that there are record levels of GHGs in the atmosphere today. This has led to deeper absorption of thermal radiation from the sun, hence global warming.
The level of CO2 in our atmosphere has increased by more than 40% since the industrial revolution of the 1800s from about 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 1800s to 400ppm today.
Tropical Forests Losing Their Ability to Absorb Carbon
Tropical forests play a pivotal role in mopping up the excess CO2 in the atmosphere. However, recent research suggests that this may no longer be the case for long as they are losing their ability to act as so-called “carbon sinks”.
According to the research, the Amazon and other tropical forests could become a source of CO2 over the next decade due to damage from logging and large-scale farming activity. The study tracked more than 300,000 trees over 30 years to provide the biggest evidence of a decline in the carbon consumption by the world’s tropical forests.
This adds to the "tipping points" fears that many climate scientists have had for a long time as the earth inches closer to climate doomsday.
Climate Change Could Increase the Risk of Infectious Diseases
Climate change is increasing the risk of infectious diseases because it is altering the way we interact with other species on earth. Global warming is causing various animals to move into environments they ordinarily won’t occupy due to higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and more.
This means coming in contact with other animals and increasing the chances of pathogens finding new hosts. Activities such as deforestation also contribute to higher risks of infectious diseases because the loss of habitat forces animals to migrate to new environments, coming in contact with other animals and humans.
When infectious diseases grow to become pandemics, some of the anthropogenic causes of climate change such as air pollution can make symptoms worse. Evidence suggests that just like SARS, the symptoms of COVID-19 will be worse in people who are more exposed to air pollution compared to people breathing cleaner air, due to how air pollution weakens the lung’s capacity and overall function.
Countries and Cities That Face the Most Severe Consequences of Climate Change
Climate change is a global problem. However, there are a few countries and cities that are more at risk due to factors such as overpopulation, poverty, poor governance and more. They include the following:
Lagos is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world today. Its population is expected to double from 13,463,420 to 23,418,770 within the next 15 years. The city is vulnerable because it is located on the Gulf of Guinea. Rising sea levels will lead to coastal erosion and contaminate potable water in the region.
This will harm agriculture and the fishing industry. Any loss of potable water will also make life difficult for a soaring population that is already severely strained by pollution and economic hardships. Lagos is classified as an “extreme” risk on Maplecroft’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index.
Dubbed the “ground zero” for climate change, Miami is already experiencing warmer temperatures all year round, and this has led to a rise in the cases of mosquito-borne illnesses.
Rising sea-levels are a threat to the city’s existence as it is reliant on tourism and agriculture. If efforts to tackle climate change are not improved on across the city, and the US in general, Miami could be a shadow of itself over the next few decades.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one of the cities most affected by rising sea levels, sinking land, and ice mass loss from Antarctica. Currently, more than 50% of the city is 5-13 feet below sea level, and climate-change-induced, heavier rainfall could force the city to go underwater by the year 2050.
Haiti is faced with multiple problems caused by climate change directly or indirectly. Its location on the Atlantic Hurricane Basin means it is prone to hurricanes which have gotten wetter and more devastating. The country’s mountainous and deforested landscape is also prone to landslide. Rising sea-levels will also affect farmlands and freshwater supplies
New York, New York
New York’s population and infrastructural ecosystem are some of the major reasons why it is vulnerable to the impact of global warming. Over the next few decades, the city will witness extended hot summers and short wet winters. There will also be an increase in hurricane episodes, and parts of the city may become submerged.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is facing extreme risk of water stress as a result of climate change. Residents will also use up more energy to stay cool as the weather gets hotter than current levels. The financial strength of the region means that they can cushion the impact of climate change using innovations. However, these measures may not be enough in the long run.
As Yemen’s civil war rages on, the number of people dying indirectly as a result of lack of access to clean water is skyrocketing. Currently, there are nearly two million Yemeni children living with malnutrition. Climate change will exacerbate the impacts of war in the country as residents try to stave off war-induced famine worsened by natural disasters. Rising temperatures have also led to a rise in cases of malaria across the country.
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in America. The possible impact of global warming has made it one of the hottest in the country. Still, the worst is yet to come. According to experts, the city may lose its population and become uninhabitable by as early as 2050.
Temperatures could rise by three to five degrees, and there could be up to 132 days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit within a year. Additionally, the drying up of the Colorado River Basin means that inhabitants will also have to deal with severe droughts.
Manila is a densely populated coastal city. It is constantly under threat from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tsunamis. In 2009, 80% of the city was submerged following a flood.
The government has launched several climate-change-combating initiatives in the past. Still, without collective effort from other countries in the region, these initiatives will be a drop in the ocean when it comes to keeping manila habitable over the next few decades.
Los Angeles, California
Caption: Santa Monica Beach, Los Angeles. The photo was taken from Santa Monica Pier in the early summer.
With increased wildfires, rising temperatures, and more droughts, Los Angeles is already creaking under the impact of climate change. In the future, the region could lose 31-67% of its beaches which are critical for the real estate and tourism sectors. Increasing temperatures will also lead to reduced productivity due to hyperthermia, and a decline in agricultural production.
Kiribati is at risk of being wiped off the map over the coming decades due to rising sea levels. The island country understands the gravity of the threat facing it and has joined hands with similar countries to take steps to fight the effects of climate change. The country is at the risk of losing its fishing industry to coral bleaching, heat waves and damage to the structure of reefs.
Hawaii is another island that is exposed to the impact of climate. High tides that can wipe out beaches and roads are now more common. As climate change worsens, sea-levels around the city will rise by at least three feet by the end of this century. Air temperature has also quadrupled over the last four decades and is expected to continue worsening.
Remember, these are just a few of the cities that are most at risk from climate change over the next decade. Without concerted efforts around the globe, the risk level will rise in even more cities and countries around the world.
11 Effects Of Climate Change That We Are Currently Experiencing
One of the reasons why many people don’t acknowledge the threats of climate change is because all the arguments are often about what will happen in the future. However, the effects of climate change are already with us and will only worsen from here if we don’t take any actions. Below are some of them:
1. Extreme heatwaves
Over the last two decades, the world has witnessed a rise in the severity and frequency of heatwaves. In 2003, more up to 70,000 people died in extreme heatwaves across Europe. In 2010, over 55,000 people died in Russia when another one swept through the country. India, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait are just a few countries where thousands of people have died as a result of extreme heatwaves.
2. Easy spread of diseases
Disease-carrying insects thrive in warmer temperatures, so the extreme heat and heavy rains caused by climate change have seen an increase in the spread of diseases. Animals that are disease vectors are also leaving their natural habitat in a bid to escape harsh weather conditions and a loss of their natural habitat.
This has forced them to come in contact with other animals and humans—thus spreading diseases that were hitherto alien to us, as well as some common ones like Lyme disease.
Around the world, the number of large wildfires has doubled in recent times. In the US, wildfires tearing through up to 1,000 acres have almost doubled in the last 50 years. In 2016, a historic wildfire that started in Fort McMurray, Alberta Canada tore through more than 590,000 hectares of land across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan.
There have also been wildfires across Siberia, with smoke visible from space. Mainland European countries have not been spared either. Sixty-four people were recently killed in one of the deadliest wildfires to tear through Portugal.
4. Glacier melt
Glaciers around the globe have been rapidly melting since the early 1900s. Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, alongside other GHGs, have led to glaciers melting rapidly into the sea. Presently, 95% of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has already disappeared.
5. Sea level rise
Sea levels have risen by more than 20cm since 1870 and nearly 50% of this rise occurred between 1995 and today with glacier melt playing a pivotal role. Perhaps the best demonstration of rising sea levels is the disappearance of five islands that were previously a part of the Solomon Islands.
6. Longer and severe allergy seasons
Warmer temperatures have altered the pollen- release cycle for many plants. This has led to a rise in the number of people that feel seasonal allergies while causing worse symptoms in people with a history of allergies. The oak pollen season, for example, which can induce allergic asthma has extended to eight days in some places, forcing more emergency hospital trips.
7. Frequent and dangerous hurricanes
The average sea surface temperatures are rising around the globe. Warmer seas lead to water vapor and more heat energy in the atmosphere, translating more powerful hurricanes. Tropical storms are now frequently transforming into hurricanes within a few hours. This means people who were expecting a storm are unprepared when a hurricane hits leading to more casualties.
8. Coral reef bleaching
Coral reefs only make up 0.1% of the ocean floor around the world. However, more than 25% of all marine life is very much dependent on them. Unfortunately, they are highly susceptible to rising temperatures. The algae, which the corals depend on, produce toxins in the face of warmer temperatures.
This forces the corals to shed the algae and take on the bleached appearance. Around the world, heatwaves are killing coral reefs. El Niño killing more than 16% of the corals around the globe is one of the most publicized, but smaller bleaching events occur regularly. Bleached coral reefs can recover, but only when the temperature of the water cools down—a process that can take up to 15 years.
9. Frequent droughts
Droughts have become more frequent and more extreme worldwide in the last 50 years. By the end of 2015, around 30% of the earth’s surface was in some form of drought conditions.
Although drought conditions are common in the US, poor African countries suffer from the impacts the most. In Eastern and Southern Africa, droughts make life difficult for millions of children who develop acute malnutrition as a result.
10. Increased Climate-related Mass Migration
In recent years, there has been a steady increase in the number of people having to leave their homes, many of them because of flooding, drought, and other such disasters that have been linked to climate change. The UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security released a warning in 2005 saying the world needs to prepare for as much as 50 million environmental refugees by 2010.
This was before the Syria civil war that was fueled by water scarcity, death of livestocks, and crop failure all which had their genesis at least in part, to climate change. The climate-related drought took a toll driving about 1.5 million people from the rural areas to the cities.
Since 2011, 6.6 million people have been internally displaced in Syria while over 5.6 million have fled the country. And in just the last six years in the Philippines, almost 15 million people have been displaced by storms and typhoons.
11. Costly and less nutritious food
The excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing the make-up of the fruits and vegetables we eat, making them less nutritious. Plants are now growing with more sugar and lesser important vitamins. Additionally, drought caused by climate change is making agriculture more difficult around the world, leading to an increase in the cost of food.
Wheat, coffee, corn, and peaches are some examples that have become costlier today as a result of global warming. More frequent storms in regions that grow these crops are making life difficult for local farmers.
The Future Effects of Climate Change
As climate change continues unchecked, most of the effects we are facing today, as discussed above, will only get worse. However, there are other future effects of climate change that we should be worried about.
Rising sea-levels have led to the disappearance of a few islands today. In the future, things could escalate to the point of disappearance of whole cities in existence today. Some of the cities we covered earlier such as Miami, Lagos, New York may disappear completely over the coming centuries as populations migrate elsewhere while escaping the seas.
Plants and animal species are moving to new habitats in the face of warming temperatures. However, not all of them will be able to complete the transition to newer climes.
Coral reefs are perhaps the best example of species that will find it difficult to adapt to warmer and more acidic oceans—but others may follow. According to the National Research Council, a mass extinction event could occur before 2021.
Sharp drop in ocean oxygen
The chemical and biological changes that have occurred due to global warming could trigger a decline in the oxygen content of the ocean in the future. This could lead to large swathes of ocean water that are uninhabitable for aquatic life.
Taking Action on Climate Change
What can you do to contribute your quota towards climate-change and save the world for future generations?
Avoid using unsustainable modes of transportation. Use your bicycle more frequently, and consider using public transportation when this is not feasible. Going on a long trip? Consider using a train instead of traveling by air. Your car contributes up to 2.5 kilos of CO2 for every liter of fuel it uses. If you can afford electric cars, you should explore the option, but only if the energy source is sustainable.
Save energy and use clean sources
Small behavioral changes such as ensuring appliances are not on standby and using smart thermostats to regulate heating and cooling in your home can help you save energy. If you can afford to make a move to clean energy sources such as solar or wind, embrace it. As more people switch to cleaner energy, coal and nuclear plants around the world will gradually disappear.
To accomplish this, you need to learn how to:
- Reduce your consumption of resources
- Reuse items where possible
- Recycle your waste or unwanted items
Our forests are overwhelmed already. Acting against deforestation is a fantastic way to reduce the strain on the ecosystem. You can do this by avoiding actions that can trigger wildfires, buying sustainable wood for all vital construction, and planting a tree as regularly as possible.
Join climate change pressure groups
Governments wield a lot of power that they are not putting to good use in the fight against climate change. Join groups that will allow you to pressure your government at the local and federal level to enact environmentally friendly laws. Such legislation can see your city (and country) move to sustainable energy on a large scale, make public transportation more attractive, improve waste management, and reduce dependence on fossil fuel.
Vote for politicians with a climate-friendly track record
If you need a reason to take election periods more seriously, think about the future of the world. Since governments play a pivotal role in the climate change fight, it is more important than ever to only vote for politicians that believe in the fight to save the planet—those that set research-backed targets that can help reduce emissions, with properly detailed plans to reach their goals.
The effects of climate change are not fictional apocalyptic tales. They are already here with us. If we don’t take action today, we may be unwittingly contributing our quota to making the earth very uncomfortable for the future generation, or worse—turn the “apocalyptic tales” to reality. Our best hope in the fight against climate change is for more people to wake up to their responsibilities.
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