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7 Climate Change Impacts That Will Affect Us All

As global greenhouse gases were projected to hit a new high for 2019, Petteri Taalas of the World Meteorological Organization declared, “Things are getting worse.” A 2019 poll found that only 24 percent of U.S. respondents believed climate change would have a great deal of impact on their lives; 31 percent believed it would have a fair amount of impact. Different regions of the country will be affected in different ways, some more than others. But there are certain impacts that will probably affect every American’s way of life.

 

1. Damage To Your Home

Floods, the most common and deadly natural disasters in the U.S., will likely be exacerbated and intensified by sea level rise and extreme weather. Heavy precipitation is projected to increase throughout the century to potentially three times the historical average. A 2018 study found that over 40 million Americans are at risk of flooding from rivers, and over 8.6 million people live in areas that already experience coastal flooding from storm surges during hurricanes. FEMA estimated that even one inch of floodwater in an average-sized home could cost homeowners almost $27,000 in damages.

2. Outdoor Work Could Become Unbearable

With continued global warming, heat waves are expected to increase in frequency, duration and intensity. Jane Baldwin, a postdoctoral research scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, found that compound heat waves—heat waves that occur in sequence, one after the other—will also increase, making recovery from heat waves more difficult. People who work outdoors, such as construction workers, miners, firefighters and agricultural workers, will be most affected by increasing temperatures.

3. More Allergies And Other Health Risks

Warmer temperatures cause the pollen season to be longer and worsen air quality, both of which can result in more allergy and asthma attacks. Ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, which increases when temperatures warm, can also cause coughing, chest tightness or pain, decrease lung function and worsen asthma and other chronic lung diseases. In addition, after floods or storms, damp buildings may foster mold growth, which has been linked to allergies and other lung diseases. With rising temperatures, more people will suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia (high body temperature) and heat stroke as days that are unusually hot for the season hamper the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.

4. Food Will Be More Expensive And Variety May Suffer

In the last 20 years, food prices have risen about 2.6 percent each year, and the USDA expects that food prices will continue to rise. While there are several reasons for higher food prices, climate change is a major factor. Extreme weather affects livestock and crops, and droughts can have impacts on the stability and price of food. New York apple farmers, for example, are facing warmer winters and extreme weather, which can wipe out harvests. They are trying to save their apples with new irrigation systems and wind machines that blow warm air during cold spells, but eventually these added costs will be reflected in the price of apples. As temperatures warm and precipitation increases, more pathogens will thrive and affect plant health; in addition, more food will spoil.

5. Water Quality Could Suffer

Intense storms and heavy precipitation can result in the contamination of water resources. In cities, runoff picks up pollutants from the streets, and can overflow sewage systems, allowing untreated sewage to enter drinking water supplies. In rural areas, runoff transports animal waste, pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and can enter drinking or recreational waters. Polluted drinking water can cause diarrhea, Legionnaires’ disease, and cholera; it can also cause eye, ear and skin infections.

6. Outdoor Exercise And Recreational Sports Will Become More Difficult

Reduced snowfall and early snow-melt in the spring will have an impact on skiing, snowmobiling and other winter sports. Less water in lakes and rivers could also affect boating and fishing during summer. Hotter temperatures, especially in the South and Southwest, will make summer activities like running, biking, hiking and fishing less comfortable and potentially dangerous to your health.

7. Disruptions In Travel

As temperatures rise, it may get too hot for some planes to fly. In 2015, Radley Horton, associate research professor at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and then Ph.D. student Ethan Coffel published a study calculating how extreme heat could restrict the takeoff weight of airplanes. Hotter air is less dense, so planes get less lift under their wings and engines produce less power. Airlines may be forced to bump passengers or leave luggage behind to lighten their loads. This concern is one reason why long-distance flights from the Middle East leave at night; the practice could become standard for the U.S. as well. Flights can be disrupted due to flooding because many airports are located on low-lying land.

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