Gone is the time when we could discuss whether Climate Change was happening or not, and whether we were the cause. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by our hydrocarbon-guzzling societies are slowly but surely driving global temperatures upwards, threatening us with all kinds of disastrous consequences. But despite this narrative being well established in our collective minds it’s very easy to lapse into thinking about climate change in the abstract, not being able to envision exactly what the consequences will be if we don’t stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere. That’s why we wanted to put together a short list, explaining a few of the things that could happen if we don’t start making a difference soon.
Increased risk of flooding
December 2015 was the wettest month on record in the UK, and climate change could potentially make record rainfalls and floods like those we just experienced occur more often. According to the government’s UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2012 report, winter rainfall could rise by as much as 73% by the 2080s, which would make scenes like those we just witnessed in many places across the north of England more frequent and even more extreme. With the cost in flood damages said to be over £5 billion, the prospect of these events becoming more widespread is reason to worry.
The flipside to having wetter winters is getting less precipitation in the summer. Research suggests that temperature rise will lead to less rain during the summer months, which can increase the risk of drought and diminish the country’s water reserves. On top of that, heat waves may also become more common, and with the UK’s population aging as a whole this can present serious risks because older citizens are more vulnerable to extreme heat. This increase in temperature and drop in precipitation could also affect the country’s water supplies through increased evaporation and less groundwater replenishment, resulting in water shortages. The same report we cited above estimates that between 27 and 59 million people could be affected by water shortages by the 2050s.
Damage to local ecosystems
Ecosystems are notoriously fragile and they usually don’t take big changes to environmental factors well. Temperature increases could push certain species of plants and wildlife to move northwards, searching for colder areas. Foreign species invasion can be disastrous for carefully balanced ecosystem as new plant and animal arrivals can alter the local food chain and the nutrient supply in the earth. Some species might even experience reduced food supplies because the increase in temperatures and the more pronounced swings between seasons will alter breeding patterns, putting population growth cycles out of sync with growth of food resources in the environment.