Reason to Pay Attention to Climate Change
- Melting Ice and Coastal Populations
- Shifting Weather Patterns and Longer Growing Seasons
- Drought on an Epic Scale
- Political Destabilization, War, and Refugees
- Resistant to All Modern Means
While an unnecessary debate over the scientific realities of climate change continues to drag on in U.S. halls of power, it's an issue that impacts everyone. It holds financial repercussions for investors and corporations, deep social consequences for vulnerable or marginalized populations, and poses grave threats to both food and water security and planetary viability. Hence, this reality is the concern of everyone, irrespective of socioeconomic, cultural or political affiliations.
In the article below, we'll broach five of the major points that make this worldwide phenomenon worthy of focus and proactive action.
1. Melting Ice and Coastal Populations
Melting polar ice masses and glacial deposits are of vital consideration. However, it's not as simple as one might think—melting ice raises the sea level and leads to flooding in coastal regions around the world. While that, in and of itself, is a dire progression that will lead to population displacement; inestimable sums of money poured into local and national infrastructure projects to stem the invading water; loss of investment and real estate, which will apply pressure to the economic institutions of every country; and an increased pressure on populations located elsewhere to receive the refugees of coastal regions, it doesn't stop there.
2. Shifting Weather Patterns and Longer Growing Seasons
Who doesn't love the thought of longer summer seasons in which to grow more crops? While this seems to be a potential positive feature, there are several strings attached. First, a longer warm season entails different weather patters, since reflected solar heat from the earth influences storm systems. Pair this with a warmer ocean, and what we are likely to see is a dramatic change in world weather patterns with potentially devastating impacts.
On a more local scale, the NASA data projects the longer warm season for the western coastal, intermontane west, southwest, and northern plains regions of the United States. In many cases, these regions rely on snow pack accumulated during the cold season to feed rivers and other sources of vital for drinking or irrigation. If we experience a shorter winter with less snowfall, that could spell disaster for agricultural interests and larger urban settlements.
3. Drought on an Epic Scale
In the American Southwest and in other portions of the world, drought is an accepted fact of life. However, the last decade shows the Southwest entering the initial phases of what is colloquially called a mega-drought. This phenomenon features extended periods of extreme heat or cold and a disruption of seasonal precipitation patterns. In the absence of structured relief programs, these factors have a destabilizing impact on political and social life—as the Maya can attest. The last mega-drought event stretched a century and scholars largely attribute the food and water insecurity it wrought as the leading factors in the collapse of the Maya civilization.
4. Political Destabilization, War, and Refugees
Food insecurity via famine and lack of accessible water lead to conflict. This is not a new concept, but one that largely goes unnoticed by non-academic communities. When populations in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel, the Middle East, and portions of Asia are denied these basic needs, two things tend to happen. Exploitative parties capitalize on the fact that people will pay any rate for necessities, destabilizing often-fragile local economies. An extension of this is the sharp increase in time and energy investments made by people, often women, to secure potable water. At some point, exploitation becomes violent and violent groups tend to clash—trapping many between them in a power struggle. This always leads to refugee movements for those lucky enough to escape, which can have international repercussions.
5. Resistant to All Modern Means
Remember that warmer weather we discussed? If plants love it, so do pathogens and pests. Climate instability is changing the lines drawn by temperature and humidity that formerly precluded the spread of disease vectors, such as mosquitoes. It may also have a hand in creating conditions favorable to the spread of human and non-human diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, in which our current medicine is ineffective. The same is largely true for our fragile, mono-crop industrialized agricultural complex.
The moral of the story about global climate is that no one can afford to ignore it or to dismiss that 7 billion humans play a discernible role in the shift. As John Donne wrote on the cusp of the 17th century, "No man is an island, Entire of itself, Each man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main." Climate change is discernible, and it impacts all of us, rendering it a topic of important and continued study by all, not simply a part of our global culture.