CONSEQUENCES

CONSEQUENCES

CONSEQUENCES

The consequences of global warming are immense. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting and sea levels are rising as oceans are warming and expanding. Extreme weather events like torrential rain, floods, wildfires, hurricanes and droughts are becoming more frequent and more powerful. We are experiencing a destruction of both coral reefs and forests. We are watching the extinction of animal and marine life. As our environment changes in unpredictable ways the consequences are and will disrupt our health, our food supplies, our economics, and our safety.

= The most basic and urgent information

Q: Why is it so important to keep the warming increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius?

A:

More than 1.5°C warming means nearly all of the planet’s coral reefs will die, droughts and heat waves will continue to intensify, and an additional 10 million people will face greater risks from rising sea level, including deadly storm surges and flooded coastal zones. Most at risk are millions of people in less developed parts of the world. More at InsideClimate News

 

Q: What are the other effects of global warming?

A:

Each year, scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and many agree that environmental, economic, and health consequences are likely to occur if current trends continue. Here’s just a smattering of what we can look forward to:

  • Melting glaciers, early snowmelt, and severe droughts will cause more dramatic water shortages and increase the risk of wildfires in the American West.
  • Rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida and Tidewater Virginia, and in other areas such as the Gulf of Mexico. This flooding will be most acute during storm surge events associated with hurricanes and other storms.
  • Forests, farms, and cities will face troublesome new pests, heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding. All those factors will damage or destroy agriculture and fisheries.
  • Disruption of habitats such as coral reefs and Alpine meadows could drive many plant and animal species to extinction.

Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks will become more common due to increased growth of pollen-producing ragweed, higher levels of air pollution, and the spread of conditions favorable to pathogens and mosquitoes. More at NRDC

AIR

CORONAVIRUS

Q: How did the coronavirus affect the consequences of climate change?

A:

The results have been immediate and astonishing. Skies have cleared across areas of China usually beset by smog and air pollution. CO2 emissions in China declined 25 percent in the last week of February 2020. Meanwhile, scientists across the globe are tracking and quantifying meaningful reductions in greenhouse gases and carbon emissions across Europe and North America. One unfortunate consequence came to light as oil prices dropped significantly — causing the price of making “virgin” plastic cheaper than using “recycled” plastic.  More at Eco-Business.

POLLUTION

Q: How is air pollution connected to climate change?

A:

Air pollutants include more than just greenhouse gases—principally carbon dioxide but also methane, nitrous oxide and others—but there’s a big overlap: the two often interact with each other. For instance, air pollution in the form of particulate matter from diesel engines is circulated around the globe, ending up in the most remote places, including the polar regions. When it lands on ice and snow it darkens them slightly, leading to less sunlight being reflected back into space, and contributing to global warming. More at UN Environment.

LAND

DEFORESTATION

Q: How does deforestation affect climate change?

A:

Deforestation is the destruction of forests in order to make the land available for other uses. Some common reasons for it are: to create room for cattle ranching, to harvest soy for feeding cattle, and to create ingredients for consumer items (such as the oil from palm trees). Currently, about 300 billion tons of carbon, 40 times the annual greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, is stored in trees, according to Greenpeace. Deforestation releases that stored carbon dioxide into the air. According to the 2010 Global Forest Resources Assessment, trees are releasing nearly a billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere per year as we cut down an estimated 18 million acres of forest, roughly the size of the country of Panama, each year. According to National Geographic, the world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years at the current rate of deforestation. More at Live Science

PERMAFROST

Q: What is permafrost and why does it matter?

A:

“Permafrost is a lot like concrete. In permafrost, ice binds together soil, rocks, sand and organic matter. Some of that organic matter includes the remains of plants and animals that have been frozen since the last Ice Age, more than 11,000 years ago.

Now, human-induced climate change – caused by the buildup in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas emissions from industrial activity, mainly the burning of coal, oil and natural gas – is raising global temperatures and driving heat waves that can cause permafrost to thaw. And as permafrost thaws, the organic matter locked within it is starting to decompose, a process that releases even more climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.” More at Reuters with a brilliant infographic

EARTHQUAKES

Q: Does fracking for gas cause earthquakes?

A:

While quakes can be caused by hydraulic fracturing — the high-pressure injection of fluid and sand into rock, opening cracks that release oil and gas — more often, it’s the underground injection of wastewater after fracking that is the culprit. The federal government posted this 2014 report here. More at National Geographic 

DROUGHT

Q: How will growing drought affect the U.S.?

A:

Across the United States , the risk of drought is expected to grow due to reduced precipitation and higher temperatures caused by climate change. Drought’s far-reaching impacts can ripple through communities, regions, watersheds, economies and ecosystems. More at C2es 

FARMING

Q: How will climate change affect major crops?

A:

Crops like wheat, peaches, coffee, corn, and almonds will see the impact:

  • Wheat will suffer from hotter temperatures. India is likely to see a large drop in wheat production due to heat stress — about 8 percent if average global temperatures rise by 1 degree Celsius, according to one recent study.
  • Peaches, like many fruit trees, must experience enough chill during wintertime otherwise they get confused and don’t bloom properly. No bloom, no harvest. California’s Central Valley peach trees require about 700 “chilling hours” during the winter and scientists are predicting that by the end of the century, only 10 percent of the valley will reliably see that much chilling.
  • Coffee can’t take freezing temperatures, but it doesn’t like extreme heat, either. Brazil is the biggest coffee producer in the world, by far, but as the globe warms up, most of its main coffee-growing regions probably won’t be suitable for growing this crop anymore, due to heat as well as more frequent rainstorms.
  • Almonds are a dramatic illustration of how subtle shifts in climate can have huge effects. California’s farms rely heavily on snow that piles up in the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter, and then slowly melts during the summer, delivering a vital flow of water to the state’s irrigation canals. As the climate warms, though, winter precipitation will arrive more often as rain, and the snow that does fall will melt much more quickly, leaving farmers scrambling for water to keep crops alive in late summer. Catastrophic shortages of water are especially bad for tree crops, of which almonds are the biggest. More at NPR

WATER

RESOURCES

Q: How will climate change impact water resources?

A:

Climate change will be responsible for changing patterns of water availability, and shrinking glaciers and changing patterns of precipitation will increase the likelihood of drought and flood. If climate change is the shark, then water is its teeth and it is an issue on which businesses need far greater levels of awareness and understanding. More at Water Footprint Calculator

MELTING ICE

Q: As the climate warms, how much, and how quickly, will Earth’s glaciers melt?

A:

When President Taft created Glacier National Park in 1910, it was home to an estimated 150 glaciers. Since then the number has decreased to fewer than 30, and most of those remaining have shrunk in area by two-thirds. Daniel Fagre, a research scientist from the U.S. Geological Survey Global Change Research Program, predicts that within 30 years most if not all of the park’s namesake glaciers will disappear. “Things that normally happen in geologic time are happening during the span of a human lifetime,” says Fagre.”It’s like watching the Statue of Liberty melt.” More at National Geographic 

Q: Why are glaciers and sea ice melting?

A:

Ice acts like a protective cover over the Earth and our oceans. These bright white spots reflect excess heat back into space and keep the planet cooler. In theory, the Arctic remains colder than the equator because more of the heat from the sun is reflected off the ice, back into space.

Glaciers around the world can range from ice that is several hundred to several thousand years old and provide a scientific record of how climate has changed over time.
Today, about 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice. Almost 90% is in Antarctica, while the remaining 10% is in the Greenland ice cap. Rapid glacial melt in Antarctica and Greenland also influences ocean currents, as massive amounts of very cold glacial-melt water entering warmer ocean waters is slowing ocean currents. And as ice on land melts, sea levels will continue to rise.

Human activities are at the root of this phenomenon. Specifically, since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures, even higher in the poles, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea and retreating on land. More at WWF

OCEAN WARMING AND SEA LEVEL RISE

Q: If fossil fuel use continues at this pace, what are the consequences to the oceans?

A:

“The world’s oceans and cryosphere have been taking the heat for climate change for decades,” said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which produced the report on climate change’s impact on the oceans and cryosphere. “The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe.” Just how severe the impacts will become—whether sea level rise stops at 1 to 2 feet by 2100 or continues to rise as high as 3.5 feet; whether the planet sees 20 times more marine heat waves or 50 times more—depends on how, and how quickly, humanity responds to the crisis, the report found. More at InsideClimate News

Q: Why does it matter if the oceans are warming?

A:

Warming seas hurt marine life, create stronger storms, and drive sea levels higher. As seas heat up from climate change, water expands and rises, causing coastal flooding and ice shelves to disintegrate. More at National Geographic

Q: What will happen to US coastal areas as sea levels rise from 5-25 feet?

A:

This exceedingly interesting (and interactive) set of maps published in 2016 don’t look good for New Orleans, Miami, Galveston, and Atlantic City which are feeling the effects already now. And, the rest of us aren’t exempt either! More at the New York Times

RAINFALL & FLOODING

Q: How is climate change accelerating flooding?

A:

Floods are the most common (and amongst the most deadly) natural disasters in the United States. They have brought destruction to every state and nearly every county, and in many areas they are getting worse. As global warming continues to exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather, our nation’s floodplains are expected to grow by approximately 45 percent by century’s end. Here’s how climate change plays a role in flooding, and how we can better keep our heads above water. More at NRDC

A: The increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been “extraordinary,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported, with the frequency of flooding in some cities growing fivefold during that time. That shift is damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads and otherwise hurting coastal communities, the agency said. More at The New York Times.

Q: Does climate change intensify floods and rainfall?

A:

Human-caused climate change  intensifies the heaviest downpours. More than 70% of the planet’s surface is water, and as the world warms, more water evaporates from oceans, lakes, and soils. Every 1°F rise also allows the atmosphere to hold 4% more water vapor. More at Climate Central

POLLUTION

Q: How is climate change polluting the oceans?

A:

The same greenhouse gases causing climate change are also having disastrous effects on the ocean. Our oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide, rapidly causing them to become more acidic. This is threatening the habitat of every species that calls the ocean home, particularly vulnerable coral as well as many types of plankton, which form the base of the food chain.More at Greenpeace

Q: Does climate change affect your drinking water?

A:

Climate change is making heavy intense downpours, droughts and rising water  temperatures more common. This can alter the quality  of our drinking and recreational water. Bacteria and viruses thrive in these new conditions and when they come into contact with humans, can cause numerous illnesses. More at PSR

LAKES AND RIVERS

Q: What about our freshwater lakes and rivers?

A:

As air temperatures rise, water temperatures do also—particularly in shallow stretches of rivers and surface waters of lakes. Streams and lakes may become unsuitable for cold-water fish.  In a warming climate, a warmer upper layer in deep lakes slows down air exchange—a process that normally adds oxygen to the water. This, in turn, often creates large “dead zones”—areas depleted of oxygen and unable to support life. More at Union of Concerned Scientists

EXTREME WEATHER

HEAT

Q: What are the consequences of extreme heat?

A:

Climate change is a pattern of change in average weather that’s happening over many years, such as warming temperatures. With climate change, extreme heat events are on the rise. More areas will likely be affected by extreme heat more often, more severely, and for longer periods of time. More at EPA

HURRICANES

Q: How has climate change affected hurricanes?

A:

Human-made global warming creates conditions that increase the chances of extreme weather. In some ocean basins, the intensification of hurricanes over time has been linked to rising ocean temperatures. Since 1970, sea surface temperatures worldwide have warmed by about an average of 0.1°C per decade. More at Union of Concerned Scientists

WILDFIRES

Q: Is climate change responsible for the California wildfires?

A:

California has battled four of its five largest fires since 2012, and scientists have concluded that climate change has increased the frequency of extreme weather and will continue to do so. Even after major periods of rain, uninterrupted high heat can produce arid conditions quickly, which leads to big fires. A 2016 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that human-caused climate change is responsible for about half the additional drying that researchers have found since the 1970s, resulting in a doubling of the area forest fires have consumed since 1984. Climate change may also increase lightning strikes, which are a major source of wildfires, and generate the high winds that can drive big blazes. More at the Washington Post

Q: What effect do megafires have on carbon dioxide levels?

A:

A megafire (defined by burning 25,000 sq acres–a bit smaller than Long Island) burned in Canada in 2014. In that case, it burned 7 million acres, scorching a region of boreal forest the size of Maryland. One result was that it released half as much carbon back into the atmosphere that all the plants, shrubs and trees in Canada typically store in an entire year. More at NASA

POPULATION

Q: How do climate and population affect one another?

A:

Rapid population growth exacerbates vulnerability to the negative consequences of climate change, and exposes growing numbers of people to climate risk. Population growth is also one of the drivers of the growth of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. More at Population Action International

A: The world’s population doubled in the past 50 years and is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050, (https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html) according to the United Nations. “Every single person on the planet should have the knowledge and ability to choose for themselves if and when they want to have children and how many, says Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director for the Center for Biological Diversity. More at MPR news

A: More people means more demand for oil, gas, coal and other fuels mined or drilled from below the Earth’s surface that, when burned, spew enough carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere to trap warm air inside like a greenhouse. According to the United Nations Population Fund, human population grew from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion people during the course of the 20th century. (Think about it: It took all of time for population to reach 1.6 billion; then it shot to 6.1 billion over just 100 years.) During that time emissions of CO2, the leading greenhouse gas, grew 12-fold. More at Scientific American

FEEDING MANY

Q: Can planet earth feed 10 billion people?

A:

Farmers can’t plant much more land, because almost every accessible acre of arable soil is already in use. Nor can the use of fertilizer be increased; it is already being overused everywhere except some parts of Africa, and the runoff is polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Irrigation, too, cannot be greatly expanded—most land that can be irrigated already is. In so far as beef currently requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more GHG emissions per gram of edible protein than common plant proteins, such as beans, perhaps we need to shift our crops for livestock feed to plant proteins.  More at WRI

POLITICS

Q: Why does it matter that the Trump administration is planning to make it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute the atmosphere with methane gas?

A:

In an interview by Amy Goodman, Michael Mann says that methane is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Now, it exists in much lower concentrations, and it does not hang around for as long, but if we release enough methane into the atmosphere over the next decade or so, that could boost the warming that we see. At a time when the impacts of climate change are so obvious that not even the most fervent climate change denier can deny that they are there, we see efforts by the Trump administration to roll back the very policies—regulation of carbon emissions, in this case methane—that have the potential to stave off dangerous warming, that have the potential to help us meet our obligation to the Paris agreement so that we avoid catastrophic warming of the planet. More at Democracy Now

Q: Do a majority of Americans, countries, and corporations support the Paris Climate Accord?

A:

Of the 195 signatories on the Paris Climate Accord, the U.S. is the first to pull out, while other countries have reaffirmed their commitments to the goals established in the historic agreement. Among other goals, the Paris Accord aims to cut carbon emissions enough to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial average temperatures. A majority of Americans in every state support U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement. A group of governors, mayors, business owners, and investors have banded together under the title We Are Still In to show commitment to adhering to the established goals even without federal support. More at Yale Climate Communication and We Are Still In 

Q: What is the Clean Power Plan?

A:

The Clean Power Plan was finalized on August 3, 2015 by the Obama administration and established target emissions levels for each state and would have reduced emissions due to electricity generation by 32% by 2030. In March 2017, President Trump moved to dismantle the Clean Power Plan by putting under the EPA (headed by Scott Pruitt)’s review. and dismantled by the Trump Administration’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt. Over twenty states, all of which have major stakes in the coal, gas, and/or oil economies, sued the original plan on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. In order for it to be repealed, however, it must be replaced by the new administration. More at The Guardian and The New York Times

Q: What is the ZEV plan?

A:

The ZEV (Zero-Emissions Vehicles) plan was first adopted by California in 2016 and nine other states have followed suit: Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont. The plan sets a goal for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles to occupy state roadways by 2025. More at the state of California

Q: As oceans become more acidified by the emissions of carbon dioxide, threatening shellfish in particular is there any legislation to resolve this problem?

A:

Ocean acidification is the often-overlooked partner to global warming and is driven by the same human-caused emission of carbon dioxide that is driving the rapid rise of global temperatures. As the ocean absorbs much of that excess carbon dioxide, the pH of the ocean water declines, meaning it becomes more acidic. Since the April 2016 release of the panel’s report on the West Coast’s waters, two bills have already passed in California to reduce the impacts of ocean acidification and promote its research. A bill to establish an ocean policy council is currently moving its way through Oregon’s government. More at Climate Central

Q: Can the US learn from other countries in cutting emissions?

A:

We could cut emissions in half by 2050 with policy changes and commitments to renewables: We need to create a carbon tax, shift to zero-carbon sources for our electricity, incentivize electric vehicles, set efficiency targets for the industrial sector & energy efficiency standards for residential and commercial buildings, curb methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and, finally, end the use of hydro fluorocarbons. Almost all these seven commitments rely on politics. More at the New York Times

SECURITY

Q: Is climate change a threat to global security?

A:

As waves of migration move away from the droughts which threaten their livelihood, international stability will be threatened. More at WorldWatch

Q: Does climate change threaten the military?

A:

Former admirals and generals say climate change is putting key military facilities at risk of costly damage that could knock out critical operations for weeks. A recent study done by the military provided scary results. More at ClimateCrocks

MIGRATION

Q: How does climate change affect migration?

A:

1% of the world is already a barely livable hot zone. By 2020, that could rise to 19%. (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/23/magazine/climate-migration.html) Not only has the great climate migration begun throughout the world but, as wildfires burn in the west, hurricanes batter the east and droughts and floods wreak damage across the nation, where will Americans move? More at ProPublica

EXTINCTION

Q: Is it possible that climate change is responsible for the extinction of plants and animals?

A:

Globally, up to 1 million species are at risk of extinction because of human activities, according to a United Nations report released in May. Many experts say a “mass extinction event” – only the sixth in the past half-billion years – is already underway. More at USA Today

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT ME?

Q: How will climate change affect me personally?

A:

Different regions of the country will be affected in different ways, some more than others. But there are certain impacts that will probably affect every American’s way of life. Here are 10 of them from The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Q: Is my state at risk?

A:

There is risk everywhere but the way climate change works will affect some states differently than others. Follow the link for a state-by-state analysis. More at States at Risk

Q: How will the changing climate affect us in the next few decades?

A:

After more than 10,000 years of relative stability—the full span of human civilization—the Earth’s climate is changing. As average temperatures rise, climate science finds that acute hazards such as heat waves and floods grow in frequency and severity, and chronic hazards, such as drought and rising sea levels, intensify. Read this reportfrom McKinsey to explore the nature and extent of physical risk from a changing climate over the next one to three decades, exploring physical risk as it is the basis of both transition and liability risks. More at McKinsey

Q: How long before my home goes underwater?

A:

Increasingly, people are realizing the reality of sea level rise (SLR) but have no sense of how soon and how high. There are 4 issues to consider: Flood factors, your property’s vulnerability, understanding sea level rise, and the value of your property. More at John Englander

Q: What is my home’s flood risk?

A:

FEMA has flood maps https://msc.fema.gov/portal/search#searchresultsanchor and nonprofit First Street Foundation aims to quantify and communicate America’s flood risk. By making flood risk data freely available for all, individuals and communities can prepare for and mitigate risks before they become a reality. Just plug in your address. More at Flood Factor