5 Serious Problems With a Warmer Planet

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It’s not just about the temperature… Here are 5 truly serious and scary problems we are facing with living on a warmer planet…

Despite the controversy here in the U.S. over climate change, we are beginning to see some real problems in many areas throughout the world as we live on a progressively warmer and warmer planet. Rising sea levels are causing coastal flooding in many communities, and extreme weather events such as extreme droughts, floods, hurricanes, and more are becoming the norm instead of isolated and infrequent occurrences. Wildlife and marine animals are becoming displaced and causing invasive situations in some areas, while the extinction of both plant and animal species continues to accelerate.

Climate change is even taking a toll on human health, and we should expect to see the rise of more – and more serious – global pandemics (such as the recent COVID-19 outbreak) as temperatures increase across the globe.

It is obvious to many that immediate and dramatic action is needed before it’s too late – if it is even still possible to reverse some of the damage…

However, many people still don’t fully understand the severity of the problem, or they may feel that it doesn’t directly impact them. This is a short-sighted view, and in fact, climate change affects us all – or it soon will, if it hasn’t already.

Below are 5 serious issues with a warmer planet which should give us all reason to take decisive action sooner than later:

1.) As the temperatures rise, arctic ice sheets start to melt, and ocean levels rise. We’ve already seen coastal flooding in many parts of the world. Flooding leads to homelessness, dislocation, the spread of infectious diseases, poverty, and psychological trauma. Just think about the catastrophic flooding after Hurricane Katrina. Local healthcare resources were compromised and quickly overtaxed. Many of the neighborhoods in New Orleans are still trying to recover more than a decade later.

2.) As our earth warms, weather patterns become unstable, and violent storms become more frequent, as do droughts, heat waves, and forest fires. Super Storm Sandy, in 2012, killed hundreds of people and cost tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Scientists warn that with climate change, such unusual storms are certain to become more frequent and more severe. Less affluent people and impoverished nations are affected disproportionately.

3.) Droughts can cripple farming and food production, which leads to poverty, malnutrition, and starvation. As a result, we are seeing more environmental refugees. This, in turn, increases armed conflict and political instability, both of which are disastrous for human health. Areas that are expected to see worsening droughts are southern Africa, southern Asia, the Middle East, and the American Southwest.

4.) More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases acidity in ocean waters, which is damaging to marine life and affects freshwater fisheries as well.

5.) As our climate changes, the patterns and territories of infectious diseases can be dramatically altered, straining the ability of healthcare systems and governments to contain them. Diseases affected by climate change include those carried by animals and insects — for example, tularemia, plague, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease. Others include Zika and dengue [and, most recently, COVID-19]. Waterborne infections (for example cholera and other gastrointestinal infections) may become more common. Truly clean water may be harder to come by in more and more areas of the world.

For more on this serious issue and what you can do about it, visit Health.Harvard.Edu


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