The proven connection between global warming and extreme weather events happening around the world shows the earth is poised to pass the tipping point relatively soon.
Some situations make me feel like a grain of sand on the beach: very small and powerless to change anything. The news is sobering. This is not a "feel good" article or one I ever envisioned writing. However, warnings have been coming for a long time. How many people can actually say they've never heard?
Wake up and smell the CO₂
It's said a picture is worth a thousand words. So, what about this one:
(Efbrazil, CC BY-SA 4.0)
That depends on who you ask. Recent global warming has forced many species, both terrestrial and marine, north and toward higher altitudes. Climate change contributes to the expansion of arid climate zones, such as subtropical deserts. The swiftness and extent of global warming are causing more abrupt ecosystem changes. Tragically, this is expected to result in the extinction of numerous species.
Oceans are warming slower than land; however, marine animals and plants are migrating toward the colder poles faster than terrestrial species. More frequent heatwaves in the ocean harm a wide range of organisms, including seabirds, kelp, and coral. Increased acidification impacts sea species that produce shells and skeletons, such as mussels and barnacles.
Extensive coral reef bleaching is occurring as a result of the increasing number of heatwaves. Harmful algae blooms like red tide cause anoxia, reef bleaching, disruption in food chains, and massive die-offs of marine life. Coastal ecosystems are particularly affected with nearly half of the world's wetlands already wiped off the map.
(melvil, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Regional impacts from climate change can now be seen on all continents and ocean regions. Lower latitudes and less developed areas experience the greatest threats. Continued greenhouse gas emissions that lead to further warming will result in long-term changes in the climate. These include severe, pervasive, irreversible impacts on both people and ecosystems. Climate change threats are not evenly distributed and are typically greater for disadvantaged populations in both developing and developed countries.
Food and health
Direct effects of extreme weather include injury and loss of life. Indirect effects include malnutrition resulting from crop failure. Many infectious diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, are more easily transmitted in warmer climates. Young children are most vulnerable to food shortages, and along with older people, to extreme heat.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to account for approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year in the elderly and immunocompromised, increases in potentially fatal diarrheal diseases caused by numerous viral, bacterial, and parasitic organisms, as well as childhood malnutrition.
By 2050, more than 500,000 additional adult deaths are projected due to a lack of available, quality food. Other major health risks attributable to climate change include declining air and water quality. The WHO has classified the human impact from climate change as the greatest 21st-century threat to global health.
Climate change is causing a reduction in worldwide yields of corn, wheat, and soybeans, affecting food security. Future warming could further reduce the yields of major crops. As a result, an additional 183 million people worldwide, particularly those with lower incomes, are estimated to be at risk of hunger or starvation.
The effects of ocean warming are impacting fish stocks, resulting in a global seafood decline. Only the north and south poles are showing a potential increase. Currently, dry regions, areas dependent on glacier water, and small islands are increasingly at risk from water fluctuations caused by climate change.
(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, via Wikimedia Commons)
Destruction of livelihoods = displacement of people
Coastal communities and low-lying islands are threatened by rising sea levels, flooding, and being permanently submerged. This could result in populations of island nations being left without a home. In some regions, humans may be unable to adapt to a severe rise in temperature. Worst-case scenarios project almost a third of humanity will find themselves living in extremely hot and uninhabitable climates. These factors, along with extreme weather, will spur environmental migration. Human displacement is expected to grow due to increased weather extremes, rising sea levels, and conflicts stemming from growing competition for dwindling natural resources.
(photo: B137, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons; morning high tide in downtown Miami on October 17, 2016)
Is there any hope?
Following an analysis of over 14,000 reports, scientists say it’s still not too late to stop the worst effects of climate change if the bad news spurs nations to act on a global climate plan.
Currently, the world is seeing more action on climate than at any time since the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. Progress in areas of renewable energy is growing rapidly. European leaders have pledged to move away from fossil fuels by 2030. President Biden recently announced a plan requiring half of all new vehicles sold in the United States to be electric. Stunned by severe flooding that displaced 13 million of its people, China has announced it will strengthen pledges to cut greenhouse emissions and reach carbon neutrality.
Photo #1 or photo #2 ... which do you believe?