Hi everyone. This is the post that for many will be the hardest to read, so I’m putting a “TRIGGER WARNING” right here at the top. If you’re having a hard time for any reason right now, don’t read this. It is, of course, important info, but if you’re not feeling resilient, or strong, or connected to caring people you can talk to at this moment, put off reading this post until you are.
Why should we care about climate change? What are the bad things that climate change will cause if people don’t get a grip on reality and start mitigation and adaptation? Let’s begin with the more obvious:
1- Catastrophic weather-related events- this includes forest and bush fires (caused by drought and high temperatures) such as those in Australia not long ago. There were human deaths, and an estimated one billion- God help us- animal deaths. And of course, air quality was severely harmful due to smoke for weeks.
This was written 2/15/20 (I updated this post): “a few fires are still being contained, but most Australians can finally abandon the grim rituals of the last half-year — morning checks of smog monitors and ‘Fires Near Me’ apps, deciding whether the kids can play outside, whether to flee or defend their homes.”
Hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and “rain bombs” are another danger. See my effects of climate change post for why more brutal storms, with raging winds and a tendency to last for days, occur as a result of climate change.
2- Food shortages- drought, changes in precipitation patterns and severity, unexpected frosts and snowfall, and intensely high and low temperatures are all possibilities with climate change. All of these are factors that can result in crop failures.
This is already occurring; the record-setting migration of Guatemalans attempting to reach the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 was a consequence of climate change-related crop failures in their country. Incredibly, the U.S. administration reacted by turning the border into a propaganda tool, and cutting off aid to Guatemala. Those people were economic refugees. There will be many more in future unless we begin climate change mitigation immediately.
Ocean acidification also threatens the food supply. In fact, the health of the oceans is intimately bound up with the health of people: “Humans rely heavily on oceans for food, employment, recreation, weather patterns and transportation.”
3- Massive displacement of people due to sea rise (from Arctic ice melt)- 10% of the Earth’s people live within 30 feet of the ocean. Eleven mega-cities are built on coasts. Thus, up to a billion climate change refugees could result from climate change-induced sea level rise alone.
4- Increased disease- from water-borne killers like cholera, malaria, dengue hemorrhagic fever, and Legionnaire’s pneumonia, and species that benefit from increased heat like tick-borne Lyme disease. Chronic kidney disease occurs in areas where people are experiencing drought and heat waves, due to chronic dehydration.
The negative social (community) and psycho-emotional impacts of climate change are just starting to be recognized and studied. Compromised drinking water due to flooding, drought, and heavy precipitation are yet another climate change effect on people.
There are also less well-known possibilities effecting human health. These include:
1- Ocean-related: warmer seas cause proliferation of anaerobic algae species, that crowd out oxygen-producing algae. This leads to “dead zones” in the water, and less oxygen in our atmosphere. And, when the “bad” algae, which emit toxins, are eaten by sea creatures that humans in turn eat, people can get very sick as a result of those toxins.
2- freshwater shortages- much of the world depends on the freshwater that comes as a result of spring and summer glacial melting. “Earth’s glaciers are expected to melt within the next forty years, greatly decreasing fresh water flow in the hotter times of the year… resulting in large shortages and fluctuations in fresh water availability.” Glacial freshwater is used not only for drinking, but also for irrigation of agriculture and hydro-power generation.
3- Decreasing food nutrition- increased atmospheric CO2 levels results in plants taking up and sequestering more carbon in their structures. This is beneficial to us in that it lowers the CO2 in the air, but the carbon seems to also “crowd out” other elements in plants, including nutrients people need, like nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc, and iodine. It also decreases plant protein levels.
Undoubtedly, more awful effects of climate change will become news and then grimly normalized over the coming months and years. Will we forget what it was like to live without climate change? Will it become as easy to pretend human death and suffering is not climate change-related as it is to deny the reality of climate change now?
For some people, maybe. For me, never. I hope you won’t allow yourself to go there either. Without the majority of humanity demanding mitigation and adaptation, the “monied interests” might just convince enough people that climate change-related effects aren’t related to climate change at all.
I wish I hadn’t felt obliged to mention that. Remember: together, we’re unbeatable. Divided, we fall.
When in doubt, reach out. Let your feelings drive you to action. Then… action into hope. Peace y’all.