The Climate Crisis
Climate change poses a global threat to human societies and ecosystems alike. Competition over scarce resources like land and water intensifies, exacerbating social tensions and leading to mass displacements.
Poor and vulnerable populations are most affected by climate change. While they contribute little to its cause, its consequences include melting glaciers and ice sheets, higher temperatures, and shifting weather patterns that put their lives in peril.
Since the Industrial Revolution, human activities have dramatically increased atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases – known as pollution – which trap the heat from the Sun, leading to rising global temperatures and further climate change.
Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas to produce energy and power transport is the primary contributor to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Burning them releases carbon dioxide into the air when burned, further adding to atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Other sources of greenhouse gas emissions include agricultural practices, which account for 19-29% of all greenhouse gas emissions; methane and nitrous oxide emissions (which are both more potent than CO2).
Climate change poses a grave threat to our global community’s wellbeing. It heightens risks such as extreme heat or cold events, shifting rainfall patterns and disrupted natural processes as well as food-water- and insect-borne illnesses; impacts are felt most acutely by marginalized communities around the globe.
The climate crisis presents multiple threats to humanity, including reduced access to essential elements for good health, such as clean air and water supplies, nutritious diets and secure shelter. It threatens decades of progress made towards global wellness initiatives while costing economies billions each year by 2030.
Human-caused warming has already had devastating impacts, from glaciers melting away to ocean acidification and more intense heatwaves than ever seen before. CO2 concentrations could soon cross critical thresholds that trigger irreversible global changes like permanent Arctic sea ice loss as well as more frequent and intense heatwaves.
These changes are deeply interwoven with global patterns of inequality, with communities with limited resources bearing the brunt and experiencing its risks first and for longer periods. This includes communities of color and those living in low-income countries that contributed the least to climate change but are most vulnerable to its aftermath.
There are various strategies you can employ to lower greenhouse gas emissions, including cutting energy usage and switching to clean sources of power. Furthermore, you can encourage others to do the same and support policies that encourage low-carbon solutions.
Local governments are at the forefront of climate solutions. They’re working on flood defenses, planning for heat waves, improving water storage and usage efficiency as well as restoring native forests as carbon sinks while adopting climate-smart agriculture practices.
The United States is making unprecedented advances to meet climate challenges, including cutting costs for families by lowering sticker prices for electric vehicles and weatherizing homes, weatherizing houses more effectively, and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 through President Biden’s leadership and Congress’ passage of transformative laws such as Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – this work backed by new investments in renewable energy sources such as solar PVs and battery technologies.
Climate change damage has already been devastating, yet its consequences will only increase with our continued actions. As the Earth heats, various horrifying consequences will follow: the loss of coral reefs; Arctic summers without ice cover; doubled chances that pollinators lose half their habitats and more extreme weather events will arise as a result.
Climate change is also altering where humans can live on Earth, as evidenced by a study published this month in Nature Sustainability that revealed 3 to 6 billion people will become climate refugees by late this century if we make only modest reductions in emissions and continue resisting mass migration. By then they would face hunger, water shortage, wildfire smoke and extreme temperatures.
Climate change impacts all people, but those at the lowest income levels are particularly affected. They contribute less to its causes and more likely to experience impacts such as food and water shortages, sea level rise and economic instability caused by disasters or climate-related stressors.