The Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change: What Impacts Will Climate Change Have?

The Beginner’s Guide to Climate Change
Part 4: What Impacts Will Climate Change Have?

Climate Change Impacts

There is a wide array of notable climate impacts that are either already underway or are considered highly likely to occur (>95% chance). These outcomes are the reason why we are concerned about climate change; if not taken seriously, they do not bode well for the continued well-being of humankind. There are quite a few to cover, so I will not be going into extensive details on any one of them; for further reading on the topic, head over to the website for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The most prominent of these are as follows:

  • Heat Waves
    • Logically, warmer temperatures will increase how common, intense, and extended heat waves are; this causes potential health risks, especially for children and the elderly
  • Water/Air Quality
    • As the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect increase in the atmosphere, substances crucial to human life will begin to absorb them; this primarily impacts water supply and air quality
  • Rising Sea Level
    • As was briefly touched on in Part 2, rising sea levels pose a significant threat to coastal settlements and local ecosystems
  • Precipitation
    • Changes in the frequency of rain, the amount of rainfall, and the timing/amount of stream flow can impact transportation of goods by water, water quality, and the energy source of hydroelectricity
  • Ecosystem Backlash
    • As the climate changes, ecosystems will be forced to adapt to new conditions
    • The changes will be particularly damaging for the geographic locations of many plants and the animal species that live off of them
  • Severe Weather Events
    • As the available energy for storms (warm air) continues to increase, the commonality and intensity of severe weather will also increase
    • As intense weather becomes more frequent, so too does the cost of property damage

Societal Impacts

Climate change becomes extremely complicated past this point. Thus far, we have only discussed the surface level problems that climate change will cause; however, these issues create somewhat of a “shockwave” effect throughout all of society. Less wealthy countries are disproportionately impacted by climate change because they have less resources available for the adaptation process. Conversely, wealthier countries are less obligated to make necessary changes on a global scale when they are more than capable of mitigating their losses on an individual level. This creates a major roadblock in convincing the entire world that change must be made until it is too late, and the impacts are upon us. Conflict arises from these points of contention as each nation looks to pursue their own best interest. This major clash of ideals as a result of climate change on a governmental and societal level are interconnected with what is known as “Environmental Security”. The threats to environmental security that climate change provides are the most directly related to any individual nation, but they are also the most interdisciplinary and convoluted outcomes; predicting the future is hard! Beyond this point is not mandatory knowledge for a casual person looking to understand climate change, but here is an excellent discussion that dives a little deeper into the topic: What is Environmental Security? Next time, we will take a look at what options we have to combat the onset of climate change.

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