We hear the term “climate change” all the time, but why is it important to us? What is its impact on people and the planet?
Unless governments take action now, the effects of climate change will be felt by everyone. There are many ways in which climate change threatens life, but some groups will experience more severe effects than others. For example, climate change can exacerbate the effects of extreme weather events. Cyclones are a prime example. In 2019, there were more than a thousand fatalities caused by cyclones. Typhoon Haiyan caused at least 6,300 deaths in the Philippines. Extreme heat stress has become a serious threat. In 2003, the heatwave in Europe caused over 35,000 deaths.
Despite its potential benefits, climate change will also have adverse effects on human health and society. Higher temperatures, for example, may result in more deadly mosquitoes and West Nile virus outbreaks. In addition, increased temperatures can cause water-borne illnesses and increase the risk of food poisoning. Meanwhile, climate change is disrupting the very foundations of modern society. Heat waves cripple utility cooling systems. Droughts threaten essential hydroelectric generating capacity. And storm surges can wreak havoc on transportation and public transport systems. Climate disruption threatens the electric grid and water and sewage systems, all of which have already been strained by the stress of climate change.
There is an enormous monetary cost to burning carbon, and the cost of climate change is much higher than it is now. Recent research has shown that the costs of extreme natural disasters have increased twentyfold between 1970 and 2010. These losses range from $500 million to $10 billion. Climate change affects everything from human health to agriculture and infrastructure. The global cost of climate change could be as high as $18 trillion by the year 2100. That’s an enormous number, and it’s only the beginning.
There are already billions of dollars spent on disaster relief due to climate change, and it will only increase as governments continue to fail to respond to the growing threats posed by global warming. Moreover, climate change will cause greater harm to some groups than others, especially those who depend on coastal and agricultural livelihoods. In addition, climate change will also exacerbate discrimination and inequality.
Impact on people
The impacts of climate change are already being felt, but the effects of this global threat will be more severe for certain groups. In many countries, climate change is causing the reduction of freshwater supplies, increasing the risk of famine and hunger. Globally, the number of people at risk of hunger is projected to increase by 20% by 2050. Most of these people will be in Africa. In the next decade, climate change will force tens of millions of people to flee their homes, creating the largest refugee crisis in history.
While this may not be as severe as the impact of extreme weather events on human health, it is a serious concern. Climate change will result in more frequent and intense heat waves and wildfires. These extreme weather events will disrupt health and social services, particularly for vulnerable populations. Fires will grow larger and more dangerous, affecting many communities in the Western United States, which will result in higher death and health risks from air pollution. Additionally, heavy downpours will increase in frequency and intensity, resulting in more deaths and illnesses, particularly during heatwaves.
Impact on planet
Scientists have estimated that 1 degree of warming can fundamentally change how energy flows across the world. The pace of change is increasing. The ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting, rising sea levels and flooding coastal cities. Drought is parching farmlands and rivers that feed them. Rains are becoming more intense. These are just a few of the consequences of climate change. The world is running out of time to avert the most harmful effects.
Already, the world’s temperatures have increased by 1.98 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degrees Celsius) since 1901. But it may go much higher. In the coming years, the global average temperature may increase even more than that, resulting in devastating heatwaves and the loss of millions of homes from rising sea levels. As a result, climate change will cause the loss of species and will also affect the ecosystems. Increasing global temperatures are affecting water supplies in many parts of the world.