It’s no longer just a theory––it’s become a tangible reality. There is scientific evidence that we must act now to address climate change to avoid the most catastrophic consequences for the future of our planet.
Have you ever wondered why climate change is so important? Many people ask themselves this question. Climate change is occurring all around us, and it impacts everyone in some way and will continue to do so.
Natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey, which have caused billions of dollars in damage to homes and property, demonstrate the consequences of climate change.
However, climate change isn’t just a problem for coastal areas; inland states are also seeing changes in their weather patterns due to global warming. The difficulty in solving this problem stems from how it affects everyone differently, depending on where they live.
In this guide, we will look at the effects of climate change and how to take action.
What evidence do we have that the climate is changing?
The Earth’s climate has constantly changed, but what we’re seeing now is different. The “greenhouse effect” is the primary reason scientists are aware that the climate is changing.
When certain gases in the atmosphere trap heat from the sun, the greenhouse effect occurs. The Earth warms due to this trapped heat, and our planet is becoming increasingly hot.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) are the two main gases that cause the greenhouse effect. We produce these gases when we use fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. CO2 and methane are released into the atmosphere when we burn these fuels.
The effects of climate change can be seen all around us. For example, when it rains now, it often rains harder, and when it’s dry, droughts are common. Weather can become more extreme as a result of climate change. Because ocean temperatures are changing, some parts of the world will become hotter while others will become colder.
How do we know humans cause climate change?
The evidence is clear: climate change is happening, humans cause it, and it’s a global threat.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for assessing climate change.
The IPCC publishes a report that summarizes the most recent climate change research every few years. According to the latest report, more than half of global warming since 1900 has been caused by humans.
To be clear, this means that we are contributing to climate change by burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas for energy and cutting down forests that can store carbon.
The effects of climate change
In the last hundred years, the global average temperature has risen by about one degree Fahrenheit, with the majority of the increase occurring in the last thirty years. This may not seem like much, but it has a significant impact on our climate.
The consequences of climate change are not equally distributed across the globe, nor do they fall evenly on all populations within each country. The effects of climate change vary widely depending on where you live and how vulnerable your community is to changes in temperature, precipitation, sea-level rise, or extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts.
What’s causing our climate to shift?
There is no single cause, but many contributing factors include greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels for energy and transportation, deforestation, industrial farming practices that cause cows to belch methane gas, air pollution from wood-burning stoves, and, to a lesser extent, air pollution from factories in developing countries.
Many factors contribute to climate change, but the most significant is our reliance on fossil fuels such as oil for energy.
The spread of infectious diseases is expected to grow due to climate change. Due to changing weather patterns, food and water security are also at risk, with arid regions becoming even drier. This drastically affects the world’s poor, who rely on these resources for subsistence farming or hunting and gathering.
Extreme weather events
The number of intense storms is increasing, as well as their destructiveness. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011 are two recent examples of devastating natural disasters.
One of the most evident signs that our climate is changing is the increase in extreme weather events, including more frequent and intense storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires. These events are happening worldwide, costing lives, homes, jobs, and businesses.
Climate change is already making it harder to grow crops and raise livestock in some parts of the world, and it will only worsen as the climate continues to change. This could lead to widespread hunger and malnutrition, especially for the poorest people who already have difficulty eating enough food.
Crop yields may decline by an estimate of 40-60% over the next 20 years in some areas. In Africa and other parts of the developing world, food production could decrease to below 1990 levels.
In addition to policy changes in agriculture that would help prevent further warming, our world would benefit from major changes in our energy system, such as prioritizing a low or zero-carbon economy.
The cost of natural disasters has been rising and is expected to continue doing so. In the US, direct damages from weather-related events have averaged more than $20 billion a year over the past decade.
Climate change also has serious economic effects. For example, it makes it harder for people to grow crops and raise livestock in certain parts of the world. This can cause food prices to rise and make it harder for people in developing countries to afford necessities like clean water, education, health care, and housing.
Extreme weather events are causing more property damage than ever before. Hurricanes that used to happen once every 100 years now occur twice as often––and are much stronger when they occur.
The economic effects of climate change are being felt most acutely by developing countries, which are the least prepared to deal with them. Climate change is costing us billions of dollars every year in damages from extreme weather events, lost crops, and reduced tourism. It is also making it harder for developing countries to develop their economies.
One of the most severe consequences of climate change is sea-level rise. If we don’t reduce our emissions, the oceans could rise by as much as three feet by the end of this century.
Climate change is also causing the world’s oceans to acidify, which will make it harder for marine life and coral reefs to thrive. This would inundate many coastal communities with saltwater, destroy trillions of dollars worth of property, and put millions of people at risk of flooding.
What can we do to reduce climate change?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are many things we can do to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and help prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change.
Steps you can take right now to help reduce climate change:
- Switching to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power
- Conserving energy in our homes and businesses
- Driving less and taking public transportation or riding a bike whenever possible
- Recycling and composting
- Eating less meat and more plant-based foods
- Supporting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room
- Unplug electronics and appliances when they’re not in use
- Plant a garden to help cool the air and absorb carbon dioxide
- Use energy-saving light bulbs
- Insulate your home––it helps keep heat in during the winter and out during the summer.
How does climate change affect biodiversity?
Climate change has a direct impact on biodiversity. The warming of the Earth’s atmosphere is causing plants and animals to migrate to new areas to survive. As they move, they compete for resources with other species that have always lived in those areas.
This can cause extinction and loss of genetic diversity within species. Climate change is also causing changes in the timing of life cycles, such as migration and flowering. This can disrupt ecosystems and cause problems for the species that depend on those cycles.
How does climate change affect human society?
Many people depend on natural resources for food, water, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Climate change is making it harder for people to access these resources. For example, droughts and floods can destroy crops and homes and make it difficult for people to travel or trade.
Climate change is also causing health problems due to increased heat exposure and the spread of diseases. Extreme weather events can also lead to loss of life and displacement of people.
What can we do to address climate change?
There are many things we can do to address climate change. We can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by using more renewable energy sources. We can also recycle and compost, which reduces the amount of waste we produce. We can buy environmentally friendly products and support policies that address climate change.
It is important to remember that climate change is a global issue. It doesn’t matter where we live––the effects of climate change are being felt everywhere. We all have a responsibility to take action and help protect our planet.
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