There is currently a lot of discussion about the impacts that climate change will likely have in the future. However, what we also need to become aware of is how the changing global climate is already impacting all of life on Earth today. When we realize how everything is already being impacted by a warmer world, it should motivate all of us to change how we live so that we can avoid the worst predicted impacts of climate change.
- Melting polar ice
As the planet warms, the sea ice at both poles is melting. The polar sea ice in the Arctic has been reduced by 14% since 1970, and the Antarctic glaciers are currently losing 60 cubic kilometers of ice annually, which is the equivalent of about 70,000 Empire State Buildings [sc:1][sc:comma][sc:2][sc:comma][sc:3].
- Sea level rise
As a result of melting polar ice, sea levels continue to rise. Sea levels have risen by 4-8 inches over the last 100 years (with a 0.13 inch rise per year within the last 20 years, about twice the rate of the first 80 years), and under a “business as usual” scenario, sea levels are predicted to rise as much as 2.5-6.5 ft. by the year 2100[sc:4]
Many coastal communities are experiencing eroding coastlines, with increased flooding in lower elevation areas. This has already caused some coastal communities to relocate in order to avoid the higher sea waters[sc:5]. Some island nations are now seeing so much seawater flooding their country that they are considering moving their entire population elsewhere[sc:6].
- Increased incidents of heatwaves, drought, and wildfires
Record-breaking high temperatures are already occurring around the globe on a regular basis. With these higher temperatures comes a higher risk of heat-related diseases, such as heat stroke[sc:7].
With increased temperatures comes increased and long-lasting drought. Harsh droughts and dry conditions are already being experienced in places such as in the State of California in the Western United States, where the aquifers have been quickly depleted during the current drought conditions. This is particularly alarming, since the State of California is where most of the U.S. produce is grown.
We are also seeing an increase in wildfires in many places due to the drier conditions present during droughts[sc:8].
- Stronger storms with increased frequencies
As the planet warms, we are experiencing stronger storms that are happening more often. This means more frequent and highly destructive hurricanes, tornadoes, and more intense rainstorms that could lead to flooding. For example, the more intense Category 4 and 5 tropical storms have increased in frequency over the last 35 years as ocean temperatures have warmed, and the number of heavy downpours has increased by 5-10% in many areas within the last 100 years[sc:9].
- The seasons are changing and shifting
According to a recent scientific report published in the journal Nature, each of the seasons is now occurring earlier worldwide. For instance, Spring is now arriving two days earlier than it did just 50 years ago[sc:2].
- Stressed wildlife and altered wildlife habitat and behavior
As global temperatures quickly continue to increase, wildlife populations and their habitats are being negatively impacted. For example, waterfowl such as ducks and geese are altering their migration routes and are more vulnerable to droughts and floods[sc:1][sc:0]. For marine life, rising ocean temperatures are leading to negative impacts such as increased coral bleaching, cold water fish species are moving to more northern waters to find cooler ocean temperatures, and higher sea temperatures are negatively impacting sea turtle reproduction[sc:1][sc:1].