By Pieter Heyn
Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence surround homes in Dillon, SC. (Gerald Herbert / The Associated Press)
Does climate change exist? This question has been answered so many times and with an overwhelming amount of evidence. Yes, it does. There isn’t much of a point in asking anymore with the evidence and growing consensus among scientists. At this point, over 99.9% of research supports human-based climate change . NASA among other agencies has shown with increasing evidence that climate change exists and will impact us . In my opinion, a new question has emerged that poses much more fruitful thoughts. Why is climate change important? Climate change exists, but what is the impact of climate change? Why should we worry about it?
Damage to People
There are many reasons to be worried about climate change. Habitats are being destroyed such as the coral reefs dying from increasing acidification of our oceans , increasing wildfires , and many other climate-based catastrophes on animals and their habitats . While this is sad, I’m not all that worried about it, at least compared to the impacts on us. I don’t want to talk about all the animals and habitats ravaged by the world’s changing climate. I want to talk about you. Why should YOU care about climate change?
I hope you read this blog post with an understanding that climate change is a human issue, not just an environmental issue. I could not stress this point enough. While the impact on animals and their habitats, biodiversity, etc. is terrible, the far more pointed threat is towards human beings. This post covers almost exclusively the impact of climate change on YOU.
Direct Impacts (Weather)
Let’s start with the basics. For those of you who aren’t familiar with climate change, here’s a short rundown. The atmosphere is full of particles that retain heat which keeps the planet at a pleasant (in some places), liveable temperature year-round. Climate change is a problem caused by human activities, particularly in the last 50-100 years , putting more of these particles into the atmosphere thus retaining more heat and causing temperatures to rise and climates to change.
Most people understand the simple physics and chemistry of climate change, and there is overwhelming evidence shown by NASA and hundreds of researchers some of which are linked below . The next step is understanding how these rising temperatures will impact us. The most obvious impact is increased temperatures causing heat stroke, dehydration, etc. . This impact won’t seem all that bad to someone who has access to air conditioning all day (hence part of the reason climate change is also a socio-economic issue). However, the impacts of climate change stretch much farther than the average temperature rise.
Diving into slightly more complex ideas, let’s review the concept of severe weather such as hurricanes or blizzards, etc. Such storms are caused by extreme changes in pressure  which as any high schooler taking chemistry can tell you is directly related to temperature by the ideal gas law. As humans continue to increase the concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and climate change worsens, these extreme changes in temperature and pressure will worsen resulting in more frequent and more damaging weather events . There will be more hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, etc. They will also be larger and more severe with the increasing differences in temperature.
The increasing number of storms will result in greater amounts of precipitation. However, this precipitation will be provided by these large storms which only occur in certain areas. While some places face the threat of flooding, others will struggle with drought . These large, intermittent storms will reduce the amount of steady rainfall for many areas in need of it. The increasing temperatures will add to this effect causing more severe drought and drought to spread in new areas.
I understand that much of this information may be hard to believe and difficult to take in, but everything written in this article has been proven with scientific evidence. The truth of it is that these patterns of events are already taking place. Look at the evidence of storms, hurricanes, and wildfires over the past few years . They are increasing drastically and will continue to grow as climate change worsens.
I would like you to now take a moment and think about where you are reading this from. Wherever it may be, imagine the worst natural disaster that has struck the area. Take some time and really think about it. Now, imagine that event happening every year or every other year… Now, imagine it being worse… This is the direction we are headed due to climate change. This is the reality we are facing, and it is not some far-off dystopia. This is happening now.
Less Direct (Food and Disease)
Now that we’ve covered the direct, terrifying effects of climate change, let’s dive a little deeper into some lesser-known impacts. There are thousands of impacts occurring worldwide on nature and animals as their habitats and food sources change . The difficulty in describing the impacts of climate change is that they come from a series of events that can be traced back to climate change if looked into but that takes difficulty explaining and grasping. Take the following example:
-Animal A lives in habitat A and eats animal C in that habitat
-Animal B lives in habitat B and also eats animal C in habitat B
Now, one day, habitat B burns away from a wildfire that had never happened before in hundreds of years, but the steadily increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation caused by climate change allowed it to happen. Animal B migrates searching for a new habitat and eventually finds habitat A where it eats animal C. Animal B begins to dominate the habitat and eats animal A as well, then animal A goes extinct because it couldn’t evolve to deal with the new predator. Now, animal B begins to run out of a food source as well. Given the circumstance, animal B decides to wander into a community of people and attacks one of them thinking it’s food. All of this can be traced back to climate change. In the real world, there are hundreds of species of predators and prey. It is extremely difficult to keep track of, but you can see that climate change creates serious problems causing habitats to change.
I know that example sounded like it was mostly about animals and not people, so I’ll give you a real-world example that is impacting us. An example that many people may overlook is mosquitoes. Your immediate reaction might be Hooray! No more mosquitoes! However, it is the opposite that’s happening. The evidence gathered thus far shows that mosquitoes are showing up more in the United States  and they are bringing with them some serious stuff. Climate change has altered the landscape for mosquitoes causing them to slowly move to new places bringing with them diseases to the area . There has already been a rise in Ebola cases as climate change has gotten worse . It is believed that this trend will increase as climate change continues to get worse. We are at risk of increasing the spread of disease throughout the world, and climate change is at the forefront of causing this change.
Now, I want to bring you back to the idea I mentioned earlier about the weather. I want you to imagine what it’s like farming under these conditions. For example, an extreme weather event wipes out your crops or a drought lasts for a long time and your crops die out. Either one of these happens and… no food . Not only could one of these events occur, but climate change will make working conditions significantly worse in other ways. Farmers for the most part need to be outside to perform their job which means they can’t hide from these rising temperatures . Rising temperatures mean they are more likely to experience heat stroke and dehydration which has already begun causing severe issues and deaths to farmers .
Farmers are going to struggle immensely under the new constraints of a world with worsening climate change. With farmers struggling, all of us will be impacted. Foods will become more difficult to buy and certain foods may disappear completely . It is difficult to say to what extent foods and farmers will be impacted by climate change, but it will certainly have an impact.
That’s right! Climate change will have a serious impact on your bank account. Let’s do a quick refresher on some of the earlier impacts discussed to understand how climate change will affect your money. To start, we talked about the increasing number of storms and the intensities of storms. Guess what? Storms cost money!
The property damage caused by storms is one thing. We will have more flooding and hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. All of these events can and will likely cause damage to your property in the future which will cost money to repair. If you have insurance, those costs will increase as well . Either way, everyone will have to pay for climate change, including the government.
The government will need more money to combat climate change-related disasters. Each of these major storms will increase in quantity and devastation cost the government a lot of money . The United States spent roughly $74 billion in response to Hurricane Sandy, and it spent roughly $170 billion due to Hurricane Katrina . These kinds of events will begin happening more frequently and with greater expense, so expect taxes to increase in response .
Another increase in expense can be seen in the cost of groceries . If you think about the impact on food production described earlier, you can see that the prices of food will rise significantly . All the food you purchase regularly will increase meaning more of your money will go towards eating rather than other places.
There are so many areas that will be impacted and result in increasing prices. Travel will become more expensive as flights become limited by storms and roads become damaged . Water will become more difficult to treat due to storms increasing contaminants in the water which will result in more money being spent on water treatment . Transport of goods will become more difficult and expensive as travel becomes more difficult which will cause the prices of goods to increase . All of these costs can be linked to climate change.
I could keep going, but I think that my point has been made. As climate change persists and gets worse, the storms and droughts, etc. will cause a steady incline in the prices of general goods and services. This will impact everyone, but it will impact people in middle and low-economic areas significantly more than people in the upper class . If you care at all about socio-economic issues or better yet, the economy in general, you should pay attention to and work on dealing with climate change.
Impact to YOU
The last point of impact I would like to show you is how climate change will impact you specifically. I have included a graph put together by the New York Times shown below, and I encourage you to go read their article as well after this one . The graph depicts the United States and what the most likely and most significant impact of climate change will be on each region of the US. I want you to look at this map and reflect on just how significant these impacts may be on you and your lifestyle. Think about where you are and what is going to happen if climate change is allowed to get progressively worse. How are you going to be impacted? Will you survive?
So, I ask again, why is climate change important? The answer to this question will vary from person to person, but the overwhelming conclusion should be that climate change is important. Wherever you come from and whatever your situation may be, climate change will have a significant impact on your life. The evidence overwhelmingly suggests this. The damages, hurricanes, droughts, food shortages, and monetary costs will impact everyone. The next question you should be asking is what do we do about it?
There are many ways you can go about helping the fight against climate change. I will list a few, but you can also follow the links above  or do some research on your own for ways to combat climate change. You can carpool or ride a bike, any way to limit the use of fossil fuels. You can turn off lights when you leave the room, shorten your shower, and eat more locally sourced foods. You can purchase more sustainable products and demand companies to make their products more sustainable (check out Rep4earth, for sustainable fitness apparel. I co-founded this eco-fitness company to make the world a better place by improving the physical health of people and the health of the environment). You can push for reform in how we produce electricity and put solar panels on your house. The point of this article was to give the reasons why climate change is important, and it’s up to you to now go do something about it.
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