Climate change is arguably one of the greatest threats to mankind since the birth of civilization. A combination of natural phenomena (such as heat waves and drought) as well as human activities have combined to create a permanent climate shift that has devastated areas of the world such as the UK, the US, Australia, South America, China, and parts of Africa. These climate changes have been attributed to human greenhouse gas emissions, which are said to be the main cause of this change. This has been discussed and researched over the past decade or so. However, there is still confusion and disagreement as to how this change will affect humanity, and what impact it will have.
Among the results of studies about climate change has been the recognition that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases is leading to rising global temperatures. As this concentration of gases in the atmosphere rises, the earth’s average temperature goes up. In turn, this increase is manifested in a variety of ways, such as rising sea levels, changing wind speeds, glacier retreat, intensifying rain cycles, and more.
While the evidence of climate change is overwhelming, there is still disagreement among scientists about the magnitude of the impact climate change will have on humankind. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or RSSC, a joint scientific body from the major world science organizations, has stated that future climate change will continue to increase in both magnitude and rate. Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will drive more heat and precipitation to the earth’s surface, changing the distribution of the various species that live in it, changing the hydrologic cycle, and impacting the global food supply.
The impact of climate change will also be manifested in its effect on the economy. Rapid warming causes the earth to absorb more carbon dioxide, leading to a release of it into the air, and into the ground. This in turn will increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, causing an increase in global warming. The absorption of carbon dioxide by the earth also leads to an increase in the atmospheric pressure, causing ocean waters to become uneven and more shallow, impacting aquatic life. Warming can also impact the human population by reducing the ability of some countries to produce food, cutting short the lives of farmers, decreasing the productivity of mining and fishing, and increasing the likelihood of violent conflicts over resources.
Another significant effect of global climate change is the increase in the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Rapid changes in the atmospheric circulation, coupled with the melting of large amounts of ice in the Arctic, have led to increased frequency and intensity of floods and other weather events. As well, extreme weather events have become more frequent and more intense in certain parts of the world. For instance, in the United States, an unusually strong winter last year has led to a record high amount of precipitation, which broke the monthly average for that time of the year. These natural disasters are likely to become more common in the future as well, since warming caused by carbon dioxide continues to increase in the atmosphere.
Global warming has also lead to less natural productivity in some areas. While some regions such as the Andes Mountains have adapted to climate change, others have remained unaltered by the changing atmospheric conditions. This means that water, land, and vegetation cannot sustain the same growth levels that they did in the past, leading to desertification and the thinning of forests. Changes in the atmospheric pressure due to increased greenhouse gases may lead to decreased cloud cover and a weakening of the earth’s rotation, affecting the earth’s weather patterns. While global climate change is likely to continue to affect human activity in many ways, it has been largely mitigated to some extent through mankind’s current use of fossil fuels.