Reasons Why Climate Change Should be on Your Radar

Climate Change and its Deadly Impact on the World We Know

Group of teenagers holding up the world (Getty Images)

Climate change has emerged as one of the most pressing global challenges of our time. The consequences of a warming planet are becoming increasingly evident, affecting not only the environment but also worldwide economies and daily human life. Here are 5 reasons why climate change should not only be acknowledged by everyone but also why it should be a major concern.

Rising Global Temperatures Causing Extreme Weather Events

One of the most immediate and visible effects of climate change is the rise in global temperatures. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Earth's average temperature has increased by approximately 2.12°Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. Recent studies have linked this rise in temperature to a surge in extreme weather events.

For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in 2021 that heatwaves, hurricanes, wildfires, and heavy rainfall events have all become more frequent and severe due to climate change. In 2020, the Atlantic hurricane season shattered records, with 30 named storms. A troubling toll as the former record of 27 storms was only just set in 2005 after surpassing the long held record total of 21 which was set in 1933.

Melting Polar Ice and Rising Sea Levels

Melting polar ice caps and glaciers are contributing to a rise in sea levels. This phenomenon is endangering coastal communities worldwide. According to the World Economic Forum, the global mean sea level has risen by approximately 20 centimeters or almost 8 inches over the last century. In 2021, global sea level set a new record high at 3.8 inches above 1993 levels.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported more than 600 “sunny day” floods in 2019. However, due to the continuing rising sea levels they report U.S. coastal cities can expect a dramatic increase in these numbers by the mid-2030s.

Impacts on Agriculture and Food Security

Climate change poses a significant threat to global food security. Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent droughts can disrupt crop yields and lead to food shortages. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that climate change could reduce crop yields by up to 30% by 2050.

In fact, the U.S. Department of State’s Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Dr. Cary Fowler, warns that the world could fall short of food by 2050 due to falling crop yields and insufficient investment in agricultural research. Siting studies by agricultural economists showing the world could need to produce 50-60% more food by 2050 in order to feed its growing population but noting crop yields rates are projected to decline by between 3-12% as a result of global heating.

Loss of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Climate change is accelerating the loss of biodiversity at an alarming rate. Contributing factors like rising temperatures, habitat destruction, and the acidification of the ocean are all major factors and are a direct result of climate change. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), nearly 50% of the world's species are at risk of extinction due to climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity reports that global warming is projected to commit over one-third of the Earth’s animal and plant species to extinction by 2050 if current greenhouse gas emissions trajectories continue at the same rate. This mass extinction is due to loss of biodiversity which not only affects ecosystems but also disrupts critical services such as pollination, which is vital for agriculture, and the regulation of carbon dioxide levels in forests.

Health Impacts and Disproportionate Vulnerability

Climate change has wide-ranging implications for human health. Increased temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses while warmer waters and milder winters help spread diseases to new regions. The CDC reports that between 2004 and 2018, the number of reported illnesses from mosquito, tick, and flea bites more than doubled, with more than 760,000 cases reported in the United States. Nine new germs spread by mosquitoes and ticks were discovered or introduced into the United States during this period.

In fact, the EPA has acknowledged that climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable populations, including low-income communities and marginalized groups. Studies have shown that these communities often lack the resources to adapt to climate change impacts, making them more susceptible to its adverse and possibly deadly effects.