We're are already seeing evidence of climate change's destructive effects. Understanding the sense of urgency behind climate change begins with recognizing those devastating effects and working to try and alleviate them as quickly as possible.
Why is climate change so urgent?
Climate change can affect our health, cities, water supply, agriculture, and more. The world is warmer now than it has ever been and even a few degrees can make a huge difference in terms of water evaporation. It leads to warmer waters, warmer winters, and summers so hot that even the hardiest animals can barely survive.
How has climate change affected weather?
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we have already seen the destructive effects of climate change on the weather itself. Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Florence, and Superstorm Sandy are prime examples of this destructive potential. Recent storms are more devastating than they have ever been, and they’ll get worse if the temperatures continue to rise.
How has climate change affected wildfires?
Wildfires seasons are more damaging than ever. The annual California wildfires that have become so commonplace in recent years should be proof enough of this terrifying trend. They burn brighter and longer each year — and California isn't the only place to have suffered devastating wildfires. According to the Parliament of Australia, the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires killed a total of 75 people, 17 of them firefighters. Thousands of animals lost their habitats or their lives as well.
How has climate change affected the polar ice caps?
Warmer global temperatures mean that even formerly frozen polar ice caps are melting. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this has two effects on the ocean itself. First, the additional water raises sea levels, putting coastal cities and ecosystems in danger. Second, the loss of this reflective ice allows more solar energy to be absorbed into the water, thereby warming it and affecting marine life and microorganisms.
How has climate change affected natural ecosystems?
Deforestation has an impact on both climate change and habitat destruction, but there are less obvious ways that a rising global temperature affects wildlife. According to the EDF, ocean temperatures have risen over 2 degrees Fahrenheit in recent years. These warmer waters have resulted in behavioral changes in marine life the world over, but they have also dealt a destructive blow to one of the largest ecosystems in the world.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the size of 70 million soccer fields. In 2016, 93 percent of the reef was hit by a wave of heat-driven coral bleaching that nearly killed the entire thing. The reefs are not dead just yet, but their demise would mean a loss of food and habitat for billions of creatures.
How will the Paris Agreement prevent these consequences?
The Paris Agreement is a landmark document addressing climate action, signed by nearly every country on Earth. The Paris Agreement acts as both an accord between all participating nations to cut their climate pollution, and as a framework towards helping developing nations to do the same. It is designed to strengthen this commitment over time and allows participating countries to share in the collective knowledge of what might further mitigate the damage.
Is climate change inevitable?
Up until very recently, there was a widespread belief among some people that climate change was inevitable: that our destruction was absolutely assured. Thankfully, the Paris Agreement has shined some light at the end of the tunnel. We know now that there is still time to get ourselves out of this mess, but only if the world bands together and we all do our part to fix what we have so callously broken.