Since the record heat, fires and droughts of 2012, the freak storms and swarms of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes such as Sandy and its aftermath, and much more, there are fewer skeptics about climate change. There is still however, a great deal of useless discussion over who to blame, and what should be done. The political and social ramifications of global climate change are not the least of the concerns. Although this is so for policy makers, life threatening weather does have a greater impact, having succeeded in getting the public’s attention.
A changing climate on Earth is rapidly offering more data, and signs of increased change. The following ten results of climate change are some of the biggest ones to impact the greatest number of nations and sustainability, that is living organisms and interactive systems, upon which all life depends.
One: Weather is changing. Weather extremes, driven by warming trends that create more collisions between warm and cold fronts, and high and low pressure systems, is getting more attention. In 2012, in August alone there were almost 4 million acres burned by wildfires raging across the west. Tornadoes came not just one at a time, but several at the same time across Midwest states. Crops were hurting along with wildlife everywhere as several states experienced record drought. Record rains fell in Gulf states and Florida, as well as parts of New England and the West Coast. Ice storms, from freakishly wet winters coated northern states as well. And what happened as Hurricane Frankenstorm Sandy slammed the East coast is well documented. Weather related deaths are increasing.
Two: World stability is threatened. With seven billion people requiring altered habitat to grow food, procure water, have fuel, support cities and development, and breathe the air, more and more clashes over resources are occurring and expected. Whereas resource wars have forever been a part of seeking conquest of peoples, lands and rights, it is only in the 21st century with more Eco-systems than ever before being exploited at record rates, that the desperation for finite resources, and finite earth, is being realized. The long standing battles over land and resources in the Middle East are well known, that people have always claimed such war is over religion, ethnicity or tribalism is largely rhetorical, as all major players recognize themselves as “chosen” by a monotheistic Deity, and for what they believe themselves to be chosen is to the rights to earth resources.
Three: Animal and plant behavior is changing. Animals suffering from warming areas, such as Polar bears must seek farther and farther away for food. Plants native to some areas are creeping north or south, depending upon what the environment dictates. Displacement of some animals results in more frequent clashes between wildlife and human needs. Farmed and ranched animals are in high concentrations degrading soils, water and air quality. Invasive species are decimating food crops, local economies, and quality of life. Many alpha predators, such as big cats are increasingly outnumbered by human beings displacing habitats. Many more each day are on the verge of extinction, or endangered. Many species go extinct daily, as no one can fully document the loss of millions of acres of forests, grass lands, water ways and more.
Four: Over harvesting accelerates marine decline. Over fishing from the ocean has left many fish species on the brink of disappearing. Acidification of the worlds oceans is causing coral loss, putting whole marine systems at risk. Algal blooms and ocean warming drives more intense storms which in turn wreak havoc on barrier islands and estuaries. Bird life, turtle life, fish and marine mammals all suffer greatly due to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and careless fishing, such as net lines and bottom trawling are quickly depleting marine environments.
Five: Economic losses are mounting. Loss related, as all things are to life on earth, includes all unseen revenues of lost resources. Weather disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and Sandy are just two storms that hit economies in the U.S. Over fishing, over grazing, or over harvesting of forests or crops results in shortages costing fisheries, industries and consumers higher costs all around. Tourist losses are affected by such disasters as British Petroleum or Fukushima type disasters, but other losses not often considered are lost revenues to snow-less ski resorts, shore damaged beaches, and degraded forests and Natural Parks. Wildfires, droughts, floods and storms affect local economies. And any storms that batter barriers, prevent rescues and destroy habitats have obvious repair costs as well.
Six: Waters are rising. Besides eroding tourism dollars, rising seas and oceans put all coastline and low lying areas at high risk of floods, relocation, evacuations and economic costs touched by many factors. Melting poles, glaciers and warmer oceans mean many more threatened coastlines. As millions of people live in densely populated low lying areas, some have already been dealing with floods for decades, others are fleeing island nations as the first human climate change refugees.
Seven: Disease is spreading. Resulting disease and contamination is on the rise due to concentrations of refugees of war, inhospitable weather and regions and food shortages. Anything that affects crops such as floods or droughts will hinder the ability for people to sustain food production at healthy levels, thus increasing strife over food and water, while impacting immune systems. Also,warmer temperatures favor parasites, certain types of insect borne disease, and more out of control plagues such as mice, rats, locusts, tree and crop killing microbes, insects and bacteria. Water borne illness, especially, is seen after extreme weather events, such as Katrina, but also in drought stricken areas.
Eight: Extinctions are increasing. Being related to all the others, of course, extinctions of animals and plants are happening already. The last Golden Toad is the first documented climate change driven fatality of a warming Earth. Many others have expired, and it is predicted that in the next twenty to forty years up to a quarter of all species may be in serious decline. Any threat to biodiversity is a threat to human life, as well. Most nations also have a profound and meaningful connection to animals such as bears, whales, jungle cats, birds and many, many more.
Nine: People are dividing. Although in hard times many people unite for the common good, there are also movements that push political, ideological and scape-goating style divisiveness. All human activity is related to which of nature's bounty and systems are either exploited, or controlled by moneyed interests. Although there have always been class divisions, only now is complete control and manipulation of life sustaining resources a major factor of the fate of the planet, determining if humanity either advances or declines.
Ten: Many people are psychologically stressed out. Besides the many physical factors related to human health, disasters and human activity, people are also traumatized by increasing profusion of so much bad news at once. Many are too busy trying to make a living in hard times, others are disconnected to their life line of natural dependency, and alienation from nature. The result is that many enter into denial, assuming it is all a hoax, some throw themselves into fear mongering and blame. Fortunately the rest, thankfully, are calmly looking into actions, innovations, conservation and causes such as family planning, education and engineering, clean fuel and reversing the ill effects of climate change for good.
Although this is the first (known) century in which a finite earth is so full of so many human mouths to feed, it is still a fact that the human species is creative, resourceful and for the most part will rise to any challenge of finding protective, innovative and resilient solutions when united in a worthy cause. And few causes, if any, have been greater than protecting and defending sustainable life on Earth.