change the world as we have known it. The following are just a few of the ways that climate change is impacting our world, and will likely continue to impact life on Earth into the foreseeable future.
Increased drought, floods, and wildfires
As the world warms, there is currently an ongoing shift in weather patterns such as precipitation patterns, and an increase in erratic weather. In a warmer world, there is predicted to be an increase in drought, floods, and wildfires, and this is just what we are beginning to see today¹.
Shifts in seasons and growing zones
It has been found that spring is already arriving as much as 14 days earlier than it used to and the hardiness zones in the Northern Hemisphere have shifted further north over the past several decades²,³. These changes in seasons will not only impact agriculture, but also wildlife, plants, and ecosystems which evolved under relatively stable climatic conditions.
Possible increased national security risks and conflicts around the world
Wildlife and marine species will be challenged to adapt to a warmer global climate. While some species may be able to adapt well and can tolerate warmer temperatures, many species, such as Polar Bears, may not survive when their primary habitat and other life requirements are no longer met, and therefore, such species may go extinct. There may also be conflict between species, as some species move to more hospitable habitats when their primary habitat changes due to climate change.
Stronger storms and increased storm damage
Today, we are already experiencing an increased number of stronger storms, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and strong winds. Such strong storms are predicted to increase in both frequency and strength under a “business as usual” scenario⁴.
Increased heat-related illnesses
With the predicted increases in heat waves of a warmer planet, there is likely to be an increase in heat-related illnesses such as heat stress and heat stroke, as record high temperatures become increasingly common in the summer months⁵.
Due to the melting of glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms in a warmer world, sea levels are predicted to rise by as much as seven feet (two meters) this century under a “business as usual” scenario⁶. This will make living along coastlines challenging, and may make agricultural production along coasts difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. Since much of the global population lives along coastlines, there is likely to be a great deal of disruption to much of humanity’s way of life as sea levels continue to rise.
Entire industries are now being impacted by climate change, including the insurance industry, the agricultural industry, and the fishing industry. Erratic and challenging weather is leading to large economic risks and losses. Climate change doesn’t just impact the environment, it will likely impact almost every area of life on this planet⁷.
As sea levels rise and as regions become increasingly inhospitable to life, people will move to places on Earth where it is easier to live and survive. This may cause a great deal of political conflict as people move outside of their countries of origin and seek new places to live in a world with already limited natural resources.
Adaptation and mitigation
While many of the impacts listed above are certainly difficult challenges that humanity is likely to face due to climate change, humans are intelligent and creative creatures that have adapted to challenging environments throughout our history. We are likely to create some very innovative solutions to help ourselves adapt to a changing climate and a warmer world.
If we act swiftly and decisively right now, we also have the opportunity to work to mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change by choosing to live more sustainably and in harmony with the natural limits of our planet. This will mean many changes to our way of life, including the ways that we use energy and where that energy comes from, how we produce our food, and a re-examining of our current infinite use of the Earth’s finite resources. All of this is possible, but we must start this sustainable journey today before it is too late.