What Will Climate Change's Most Devastating Impacts Be?
In 2021, Madagascar, an island nation in southern Africa, began one of its worst droughts in decades. Over 1.6 million people struggle to feed themselves in what the World Food Programme, a United Nations humanitarian branch, considers the first natural disaster attributed to climate change.
To add to the famine’s toll on the people of Madagascar, a series of hurricanes have struck the nation in 2022, leading to destroyed infrastructure, displaced people, and inundated crop life just weeks before the harvesting season.
For the people of Madagascar, this is a famine with no clear end in sight.
Natural disasters of this intensity and frequency are not usual. Too many lives have already begun feeling the impact of a worsening climate, and the future looks bleaker than the present.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the various ways that climate change will impact the world in the coming decades.
Over the last 200 years, the global temperature has risen by 2.12°F (1.18°C). The bulk of this temperature increase has occurred during the most recent decades.
To put that rising into perspective, the last ice age experiences a global temperature decrease of only 5–9°F (2.8–5°C).
It should be apparent that small changes in temperature make big impacts.
Concerningly, the National Climate Assessment expects a temperature increase of 8°F by 2100. A rise of this magnitude would spell disastrous consequences for all human life.
2016 and 2020 are both the hottest years on record — these sweltering years are only going to become more prevalent and wreak havoc on our planet.
Madagascar’s famine has been significantly influenced by climate change, and they are just the first in a long line of upcoming famines over the next century.
Worsening droughts and heatwaves will hit agriculture around the world. NASA studies project that a once in 20-year drought will occur every 2–3 years by the end of the century.
Droughts not only create famine but hamper our ability to access clean drinking water and increase the probability of forest fires.
The increase in global temperature leads to higher evaporation rates — leaving moisture stripped from the ground and in the air instead. Dry lands and warm skies create the perfect scenario for more natural disasters to occur.
The result has been extreme weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires increasing in intensity and frequency over the past 30 years. These trends are expected to worsen with a rapidly warming planet over the coming decades.
The consequences of natural disasters can already be seen in infrastructure. The United States averaged $5.2 billion in infrastructure damage from 1980 to 2015, but between 2011 and 2015, we can observe an average annual cost of $10.8 billion.
Sea levels have already risen 8 inches since 1880 — a relatively negligible amount compared to the projected 1–8 feet sea level rise by 2100.
This estimation becomes horrifying once you learn that 600 million people live at the coastal level.
Major cities such as New York, Shanghai, Mumbai, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Tijuana, Seoul, Bangkok, etc., will all be left vulnerable to major flooding, which could threaten millions of lives and destroy billions of dollars worth of infrastructure.
Global warming has hit the arctic poles harder than anywhere else on Earth, making the effects of climate change most evident in these areas.
Since the 1980s, each decade has observed a 13% loss of the arctic ice, with the thickest areas having lost a staggering 95%. It is expected that by the mid-century, the Arctic Ocean will become virtually ice-free during the summer months.
Our poles are vital, and without them, we will experience severe rises in global temperature and sea levels.
Other Harmful Effects
Rising temperatures, frequent droughts, and melting ice caps are all some of the main consequences of climate change, but that doesn’t make them the only ones that we’ll experiences.
Here is a short list of some other harmful effects of climate change:
- Lower air quality: air pollution from human activity has increased ground-level ozone which has resulted in declining air quality.
- Higher extinction rates: the changing climate has resulted in an extinction rate roughly 114 times higher than it should be.
- Acidic waters: gas emissions have been absorbed by the oceans, resulting in more acidic waters that are destroying aquatic life around the world.
The evidence supporting the existence of climate change is undeniable. Taking the issue seriously is not a matter of debate anymore.
Unfortunately, not enough is being done to curb greenhouse gas emissions. If we cannot change our ways soon, the future of humanity and the planet rests in a vulnerable fate.
This article was brought to you by The Earth Store, an eCommerce business that sells bamboo toothbrushes and donates a portion of profits toward environmental organizations to help create a safer world for tomorrow. Check out our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to receive more content on climate change and the environment.