7 Effects of Climate Change You’re Already Seeing
It’s coming for your wine, your coffee beans, and your veggies… as well as for your health and safety.
Here are seven effects of climate change you’ve already seen.
1) Longer, more intense allergy seasons.
If you’ve been feeling seasonal allergies for the first time, or more intensely in recent years, it’s not just you.
Warming temperatures in some areas, like the northern United States, are extending the periods when plants release pollen. This affects not only people who already have allergies, but those who don’t.
This means that people who have pollen allergies might experience more intense symptoms, and people who don’t normally have allergies might begin to experience them. Fun.
And if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase through the end of this century, the oak pollen season, in particular, could extend by up to eight days in some areas.
This pollen, which can induce allergic asthma, could increase the number of associated hospital emergency room visits for asthma by 10 percent in the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast.
2) Foods you love are becoming less nutritious and cost more at the grocery store.
The same CO2 accumulating in our atmosphere thanks to fossil fuels is actually changing the composition of fruits and vegetables that we eat, making them less nutritious. Extra CO2 is speeding up photosynthesis and causing plants to grow with more sugar and less calcium, protein, zinc, and important vitamins.
Not only is food becoming less nutritious, but it could soon cost more too. Beginning in 2006, drought in major wheat-producing countries was a key factor in a dramatic spike in food prices around the globe. And as the world keeps getting hotter, we can expect to see this kind of drought more and more often.
Wheat isn’t the only crop to feel the heat either. Let’s start with your morning coffee, which could soon be more expensive too. Brazil is the biggest coffee producer in the world, but as the globe warms up and more frequent rainstorms hit the region, most of its main coffee-growing areas will be less suitable for growing the crop.
Sadly, the story doesn’t end there. Scientists project that peaches, coffee, corn, cacao, and other delicious – and important crops – will also become scarcer because of climate change.
3) More common, more severe, and more long-lasting heatwaves.
Extreme heat and heatwaves have happened since the beginning of time. But across the board, climate change is making heatwaves more common, severe, and long-lasting.
Heatwaves can become so intense that our roads actually melt. We’ve seen this happen on the tarmac at Washington, DC’s Reagan National Airport in 2012, during India’s deadly 2015 heatwaves, and most recently, in Australia, where car tires were covered in asphalt nearly three inches thick.
4) Wildfires causing damage to our landscapes and our communities – as well as our health.
Wildfires are devastating communities around the world. From the billion-dollar destruction they cause to the costs of lost plant, animal, and even human life, these devastating natural disasters are scarring our landscapes.
But beyond even the tragic injuries and fatalities that can result directly from major forest fires, these climate-driven events can damage infrastructure, which can:
- Jeopardize access to lifesaving care for extended periods of time
- Threaten water quality and food supplies
- Dramatically diminish the quality of the air we breathe.
In 2018 alone, wildfires were pervasive across central and northern Europe, from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden to Malta, Poland, and Germany. They’re even coming where you might least expect it – the boreal forests that encircle the globe in the Arctic North, for example, have in recent years “experienced wildfires at a rate and scale not seen in at least 10,000 years.”
5) Hurricanes are becoming more likely and more dangerous.
Around the world, average sea surface temperatures are rising. As seas get warmer, they add more water vapor and heat energy into the atmosphere. This extra heat and water, just happens to be the perfect fuel for hurricanes and in the right conditions, can make dangerous storms even more powerful.
This can happen very quickly too. So a once-relatively weak tropical storm can cross the right stretch of (warm) water and become a major hurricane in a matter of hours.
This can lead to many people, even those who spend their lives in hurricane-prone regions, being under-prepared for the intensity of the actual hurricane that makes landfall, resulting in greater damage, injury, and even loss of life. Which is exactly what happened with Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey.
6) More climate-related mass migration.
Climate change is already prompting an increase in migration, with people being forced to leave their homes because of drought, flooding, and other climate-related disasters.
In 2007, for example, water scarcity, crop failures and livestock deaths stemming in part from climate-related drought drove an estimated 1.5 million people to the cities from rural areas in Syria, helping spark the horrifying civil war that displaced millions more.
And since 2013, nearly 15 million people have been displaced by typhoons and storms in the Philippines.
A 2018 World Bank Group report estimated that the impacts of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could lead to more than 140 million people leaving their homes before 2050.
7) Diseases are spreading more easily.
What thrives with warmer-than-average temperatures, extreme heatwaves, and heavy rains? You guessed it: disease-carrying insects.
These vectors live longer lives in extended periods of warm weather. Fly into new areas that were previously too cold. And reproduce in water deposits left by the rain.
Climate change is also creating ideal conditions for waterborne pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and protozoa, which flourish in warmer waters.
For example, a recent CDC report found the number of cases of illnesses transmitted by ticks more than doubled between 2004 and 2016 in the US – particularly in Lyme Disease cases.
So, what can you do?
We know a lot about the climate crisis and we know how to fix it – by switching to cleaner sources of energy and reducing carbon emissions.
That’s why we’re training everyday people like you to make a difference and together make our leaders act on climate. Join us by becoming a Climate Reality Leader at one of our upcoming trainings. Click here to learn how.