There’s a lot at stake in the world right now.
Indeed, there always has been, but 2020 has made it apparent that there are some things the majority of people can’t ignore.
(If you aren’t eligible to vote in the United States, you can go ahead and skip this paragraph if you’d like.) I’ll take this opportunity to say to those who are eligible: please vote in the upcoming presidential election. No, not for Trump. I could list several reasons why you shouldn’t vote for him due to his character, leadership, and policy, but that’s not what this article is about. If he does end up in office again, you can bet the consequences listed in this article will only get worse under his negligence.
This brings us to our topic. Climate change has impacted the world slowly but more severely over the past few decades. Having experienced effects from both the worsening hurricanes of the southern coast of America and the terrifying recent fires of Oregon, I figure it’s time to have a clear article describing some of the real effects happening from this phenomenon.
Be mindful, there are several other effects not listed here. Still, it’s a start.
1. Droughts and Heat Waves. It’s predicted that these will become more intense everywhere while cold waves become less intense. A reduction of soil moisture will accompany this, hindering agricultural practices— essentially, it’ll impact the stuff we eat to survive. This also leads to likely a worsening of wildfires, like the recent ones affecting the west coast. Starting college in the middle of a pandemic is already challenging enough, but waking up to a yellow sky where the sun looks apocalyptically red, the air is toxic, the power goes out, the smoke gives you headaches and fatigue while you’re studying, you witness a wind-blown tree nearly fall on a nearby dorm, and you’re wondering if you have to make plans to get a plane ticket home without getting sick from a virus or smoke— that’s a little excessive. Yet this is nothing in comparison to the people who had to evacuate their homes. Only encountering the outer effects of the fires, I can’t begin to imagine how they felt. But the thing is, we’re all experiencing it on some level or another. As the effects of climate change worsen, the world will heat up, and that will cause some severe natural disaster consequences. Also including…
2. Hurricanes. This quite literally hits close to home for me. Being from the coast of Texas, the older I’ve grown, the worse hurricanes have become. In high school, I experienced tropical storms, flooding, and hurricanes too regularly. During Hurricane Harvey, I recall seeing my mailbox in the middle of a lake, standing in an hours-long line for grocery store food provisions, and witnessing the houses that threw up furniture and all their possessions on their front lawns. My neighborhoods were more fortunate than most— several others had their entire houses drowned. Just recently, Hurricane Laura wiped out houses and released toxic chemicals in Louisiana. Now that same region is dealing with Category 4 Hurricane Delta. The point here is that I, as well as many others, experienced these hurricanes. It’s a very real situation. As the world’s climate continues to warm, this increasing temperature will fuel increased rain and storm intensity. And as the world warms up, that means the appearance of ice lessens.
3. Arctic Ice Disappears. This is predicted to happen by the middle of this century. By around 2050, the ice in the arctic will likely be gone. This has already begun to affect the ecosystem there, such as how polar bears struggle to find food due to the thinning sea ice; if they can’t adapt to this change, species such as the polar bear will go extinct. Less glaciers also mean less freshwater available, considering glaciers make up about 3/4 of the world’s freshwater. If freshwater becomes less accessible, this in turn decreases hygiene and risks increased spread of disease. As all this happens, the ocean levels will make up the balance.
4. Rising Sea Levels. Sea levels rise = more land underwater. Meaning eventually, coastlines are going to change and the water is going to creep closer and closer to house edges. In addition, rising sea levels put coasts at risk for storm surge and erosion. If more than half the world’s population lives within 60 kilometers of the sea (according to the World Health Organization), that’s a lot of people to relocate through the years.
5. Coral Reef Damage. There’s an alarming amount of damage climate change can cause to coral reefs. As sea levels rise, more sedimentation will result in smothering of coral. The thermal stress from the ocean’s increasing temperature can result in bleaching and disease among the reefs. Stronger and more frequent storms outright destroy the reef structure. As oceans become more acidic due to carbon emissions, growth rates of the coral reef will decrease. Why should you care? Besides caring for the biodiversity coral reefs encourage through their provided shelter, coral reefs help the economy by generating money through tourism (which in turn establishes millions of jobs around the world) and providing plenty of fish for people to sell and eat. Coral reefs also defend coasts from hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis, so as natural disasters such as these get worse and coral reefs start disappearing… perhaps you can imagine the devastating effects.
6. Human Health. With the changing environment, more heat stress is to be expected, as well as an increase in diseases through water and insects, plus poor air quality. From 2030 and 2050, it’s expected that climate change will cause 250,000 deaths per year from things like malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress (“Climate Change and Health,” World Health Organization). Imagine how this could impact your health. If you have asthma or a poor immune system, a carbon-dioxide or smoke-filled air could make your breathing life horrible. If you live in an area already heavy with heat, imagine record-breaking temperature days becoming regular. Imagine living through a worldwide pandemic only to experience more new diseases spreading that we could’ve helped prevent.
It’s up to us to prevent this from becoming worse. It’s especially important as advocators of science to step up and spread awareness of what climate change will do. I implore you to start conversations about this with your friends, coworkers, colleagues, that person over there with a Make America Great Again hat on, or whoever you feel comfortable with.
If you’d like a less direct approach to where someone else can start the conversation for you, I’ve provided a few products on this website with a delta design. In many calculations, delta is used to represent the change of something— this delta is no different. It showcases within it decaying coral reefs, rising sea levels, arctic eradication, worsening wildfires from heated climates, and a sickly sky from a damaged ozone layer. If anyone asks what the design means, now you can tell them or simply refer them to this article. The more knowledge spread, the better.
Enjoy our environment as it is. And let’s help protect it.
The information in this article that weren’t personal anecdotes were provided by NASA, National Geographic, NOAA, and WorldWildLife.
The coral reef picture was taken by Jeremy Bishop and can be found here: https://www.pexels.com/photo/underwater-photography-of-ocean-2397651/
The furniture in the front yard picture was taken by myself in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey three years ago. There are still some people trying to recover their houses from this event.
More information on climate change can be found at these sources: