Consequences of Climate Change


Given current emissions, scientists predict that ice would melt much quicker than previously anticipated. 

The scientists were taken aback when their model predicted that half of Antarctica's (and, by extension, the world's) ice would melt within 1,000 years, causing sea levels to rise at a rate of a foot per decade for centuries, a rate that "would almost certainly throw human society into chaos, forcing a rapid retreat from the world's coastal cities." 

  • To put it simply, if we burn it all, we melt it all, according to Winkelmann, a researcher at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • London, Berlin, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney, Rome, Tokyo, Miami, New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Houston, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Venice, Buenos Aires, Beijing, and Washington, D.C. are just a few of the coastal cities that may be flooded. 
  • Caldeira said, “This is mankind as a geologic force.” “We [humans] aren't having a subtle impact on the climate system; we're hammering it with a hammer” (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • An average global temperature increase of around 20°F would cause ice melting, with more at higher latitudes and interior regions and less in the tropics and near shorelines. 
  • According to Justin Gillis of The New York Times, “vast sections of the Earth will certainly become too hot and humid for human habitation, causing food production to fail, and driving much of the planet's plant and animal life to extinction” (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • “The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States,” scientists reported in 2014. 
  • “Water is becoming scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains are increasing in wet regions, heat waves are becoming more common and severe, wildfires are becoming more severe, and forests are dying under attack from heat-loving insects” (Gillis 2014, May 6). 
  • “Summers are longer and hotter, and prolonged spells of exceptional heat persist longer than any living American has ever experienced,” according to the National Climate Assessment released by the United States Global Change Research Program. 
  • Winters are usually milder and shorter. Rain falls in torrential downpours. People are noticing differences in the duration and intensity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that flourish in their gardens, and the types of birds they observe in their communities in any given month.” Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the report's drafting but saw a late copy, said, "Yes, climate change is already here."
  •  “However, the expenses thus far are still modest when compared to what will be standard practice by the end of the century” (Gillis 2014, May 6). 2016 was by far the warmest year on record, marking the third year in a row of record temperatures. 
  • The only places with colder-than-average temperatures in 2015 were the seas off Greenland and Antarctica, where fast melting ice was cascading into the oceans, cooling the air above. 
  • The margin of error for the new record was astounding—0.23°F (0.23°C) (according to NASA) and 0.29°F (0.16°C) (according to NASA) (as measured by NOAA). 
  • New global highs and lows are often recorded in tenths of degrees. A powerful El Nio had a role, but so did long-term global warming driven by human greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, stated, “The entire hole system is persistently warming” (Gillis 2016). 2016 continued 2015's hot trend, with the largest deviation from the average of any month on record. 
  • The Arctic saw the most extremes, with some places exceeding 6°C (13°F) over the 1951–1980 average. 
  • The Arctic as a whole was 4.0°C (7.2°F) warmer than it was over the same time period. Global warming is more than just a matter of temperature rises. 
  • Warming temperatures alter the hydrological cycle's behavior, increasing the severity of storms as well as the frequency and intensity of droughts and deluges. 
  • Because warming also increases evaporation, a warmer atmosphere may retain more moisture, enhancing the explosive nature of precipitation. 
  • As a consequence, drought and flooding may occur at the same time in different parts of the country—or even alternate in the same location. 
  • Changes in precipitation patterns may vary dramatically over time and location, according to theory and an increasing number of daily weather reports. 
  • Temperatures appeared to be shifting faster than the hydrological cycle. Such shifts will be uneven, episodic, and often unpleasant. 

One of the most startling results of the National Climate Assessment was the increasing frequency of heavy rainfall. 

For decades, scientists have predicted that more water would evaporate from a rising ocean surface, and that the warmer atmosphere will be able to retain the extra vapor, which will subsequently fall as rain or snow. 

Even the most seasoned specialists were taken aback by the severity of the impact. 

  • The National Climate Assessment concluded that “the eastern half of the [United States] is getting greater precipitation in general,” according to Justin Gillis of The New York Times on May 6, 2014. And the percentage of precipitation dropping in extremely heavy rain episodes has increased by 71 percent in the Northeast, 37 percent in the Midwest, and 27 percent in the South during the last half-century.” Such developments are taking place all across the globe. 
  • In the summer of 2010, for example, floods ravaged Pakistan, but an exceedingly unusual downpour flooded the town of Leh in Ladakh, India, which is located in one of the world's driest deserts. The hamlet is located in a high-altitude desert that is shielded from the majority of precipitation by neighboring mountains. 
  • In August, the average rainfall is 15 millimeters, or a fraction of an inch. However, a half-hour downpour on August 6, 2010, washed most of the town away, killing 150 people and left hundreds more missing. The storm was so powerful, yet so remote, that it missed a meteorological station in the valley and remained unnoticed. 
  • In 2013, significant sections of Nashville, Tennessee, were flooded by almost 20 inches of rain, while parts of Colorado got a year's worth of rain in a single week. As much as two feet of rain fell in as little as 24 hours in parts of the Florida panhandle. 
  • At the same time, sand dunes erupted over most of the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, which is normally dry, as precipitation dropped from meager to virtually none—except for a brief but intense rainfall. Early in October 2015, parts of South Carolina got two feet of rain in three days. In some parts of southern Texas, 20 inches of rain poured two weeks ago.

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.