Global warming is a serious threat to all living inhabitants on Earth — and we’re seeing it with our own eyes.
Essentially, global warming is the rising average temperature of Earth’s climate system. On the surface, a little bit warmer temperatures might not sound all that bad. But, our globe has warmed by a whopping 34 degrees Fahrenheit since the pre-industrial era — and two thirds of that rise has occurred since 1986.
Unfortunately, it’s driving changes in the form of extreme weather, changing rainfall patterns, skewed arrival of seasons, and so much more. Not only is it a threat to your personal health, but it’s threatening most living beings.
Here are some of the biggest concerns over global warming, and the detrimental effects it’s having on our world.
First things first. The most obvious threat from global warming is higher temperatures. In terms of just human health, we’re looking at heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyperthermia, and dehydration. Plus, higher temperatures can also worsen pre-existing conditions, like cardiovascular, respiratory, cerebrovascular, kidney and diabetes-related conditions.
In other words, heat waves are responsible for thousands and thousands of premature deaths — on a global scale.
Warmer temperatures affect what are called vector-borne diseases — those carried by mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and rodents. We’re seeing earlier annual onset of things like Lyme disease. Plus, cases of mosquito-borne Dengue fever, once unknown in the United States, have doubled each decade since 1990. Other vector-borne diseases, like West Nile Virus, are a national public health concern.
The U.S. Geological Survey established the 100th Meridian back in the late 19th century. It was named as such because it was one hundred degrees west of Greenwich. In the U.S., the boundary line actually denoted where the arid, desert-like climate in the west separated from the more humid east. But…
However, since 1980, the dividing line between those two climates has shifted more than 140 miles to the east — altering the way we are able to farm.
Climate change is also affecting what plants can survive, as the United States’ plant hardiness zones are changing.
They’ve been moving approximately 13 miles north with each decade — mostly due to increasing temperatures. From 1990 to 2015, some areas even shifted as many as two to three zones from where they once were.
Of course, if climate change is affecting what plants can grow where and altering the way we are able to farm, it’s going to affect the food supply.
Climate change is creating conditions that are no longer favorable for crop production in major food-producing regions. This means food sources becoming scarce, rising prices, and becoming reliant on importing food from other countries.
Even if you’re not from the midwest, you’re likely familiar with “Tornado Alley.” The area, which includes parts of Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, was long a primary hotspot for tornadoes.
Things are changing.
In the past 50 years, though, the Tornado Alley area has shifted about 500 miles east, hitting states like Mississippi and Alabama hard.
There is a strong connection between climate change and wildfires. Wildfire risk depends on a number of factors, including temperature, soil moisture, and the presence of plant life. Unfortunately, all of these factors have strong ties to climate variability and climate change.
Climate change is causing higher temperatures, longer droughts, and drier organic matter. It’s increasing fire risk, and it’s also creating a longer fire season.
Severe weather — like hurricanes, tornadoes, drought, and extreme precipitation — is growing more intense and frequent thanks to human-caused climate change. Not only have the number of these disasters increased, but the strength of these events have increased, too.
This, of course, results in loss of homes, businesses, and — more importantly — lives.
The economic impact of extreme weather is hard to ignore, too. There has been an increasing number of billion-dollar disasters over the years. These events devastate local economies and leave damage that lingers for many years after.
Sea level rise is one of the most severe impacts of climate change, threatening small islands and coastal regions. Sea levels have already risen by more than half a foot since 1900.
The rate at which sea levels are rising is happening at an accelerated rate, too. Since the early 90s, it’s started increasing by about a third of an inch per year each decade.
In fact, America has already had its first climate change refugees. Over the last six decades, more than 98 percent of Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles has vanished into the water. All that’s left is a strip of land that’s just two miles long and a quarter-mile wide.
What was once historic Native American land full of cow pastures, rice fields, and homes is all but gone. The island is now home to about only 40 residents.
As temperatures rise, animal habitats are being destroyed. We’re looking at losing up to a fourth of all the plants and animals on Earth, which will disrupt the global ecosystem.
This is especially true for plants and animals that thrive in cold places, like on mountaintops or in the Arctic. In fact, the Arctic is warming about twice as fast as the global average. The loss of sea ice is threatening polar bears, seals, and other species that depend on the ice.
Climate change isn’t just threatening cold habitats, either. Animals everywhere are now facing shrinking homes. Some animals, like birds in North America, have started migrating further north. Some have even had to alter their breeding and feeding patterns in order to survive.
Unfortunately, not all animals are able to migrate and adapt so easily. Habitat change in many ecoregions has the potential to result in catastrophic species loss.
Coral reef ecosystems are actually created by millions of tiny animals called corals. Each coral makes a skeleton for itself, and over time these skeletons build up to create those beautiful coral reefs. They also provide habitat for lots of fish and other ocean creatures. Unfortunately, climate change has already started damaging them.
Climate change is warming the oceans, and warmer water has already caused thermal stress that contributes to coral bleaching and infectious disease. As soon as 2050, live corals could become rare due to the combined effects of warmer water and increased ocean acidity caused by extra carbon dioxide in the air. By 2100, they could be gone completely.
It sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, but climate change is bringing back viruses that have laid dormant and locked away in glaciers and permafrost for thousands of years. It’s like opening a Pandora’s box of diseases.
Under normal circumstances, superficial permafrost layers melt every summer. But as global warming continues to heat up the Earth, older permafrost layers are gradually being exposed — along with the bacteria and viruses that have been frozen within them.
Permafrost is cold, dark, and there’s no oxygen, so it’s preserved the pathogens really well, including some that may have caused global epidemics in the past.