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Emily Gordon

Professor Dunham

English Composition 1201

23 March 2019

The Effects of Climate Change

In 2018, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an

updated climate change report, revealing the severity of the situation currently facing the world

today. Climate change is no longer a futuristic issue and is happening now. The effects of

climate change can be seen today, and the projected increase is even more terrifying. Action

must be taken to reverse climate change in order to avoid devastating damage regarding

weather, infrastructure, ecosystems, human health, food and water supplies, and the

economy.

The topic of climate change has been a concern for many decades now as scientists

conduct more and more research. Now more than 97% of scientists believe that climate change

is most likely due to the rise of industrialization and human activity (“Climate Change Evidence:

How Do We Know?”). Human activity, especially the production of an increased amount of

carbon dioxide, has affected the earth’s greenhouse effect. Human activity has caused the

balance of natural gases in the atmosphere to shift. The use of fossil fuels produces an influx of

carbon dioxide and this messes up the natural concentration of gases. Not only does the

burning of fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide, but other human activities do as well.

Industrialization is a leading cause in rising carbon dioxide levels. The increase in gases causes
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temperatures to rise and as a result, many other areas of life are affected. For years, scientists

have warned the world of the impacts climate change will have on the future, but the new

United Nations’ report reveals that these effects are coming much sooner than expected.

The IPCC report concludes that global warming of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels

would mean significant rise in extreme heat levels and this would in turn be catastrophic for

many areas of life. The need for action is more critical now than ever before. If carbon

emissions are not reduced and policy is not changed, then the world will face an unprecedented

amount of damage. Previously, the United Nations urged countries to stay below warming 2ºC

through the Paris Agreement. The new IPCC report has revealed that there will be a huge

difference if rising temperatures are kept below 1.5ºC. While two degrees doesn’t seem

significant, the predicted impacts are overwhelmingly catastrophic. There would be a lesser

threat towards animals, humans, and the world overall. Keeping global warming from reaching

1.5ºC is possible but it is an extremely difficult task. The United Nation has found through the

report that extreme changes would be needed in several areas around the world (“Climate

Change.”). The changes required would be drastic but the longer the world waits to act on this

catastrophe, the bigger the issue becomes. The entire world will be drastically affected.

Weather is one of the areas that will be impacted the most by climate change. Extreme

weather events will become more frequent and intense. According to the Nation Climate

Assessment, events such as hurricanes and heat waves have substantially increased in

prevalence and strength in the United States (“Extreme Weather and Climate Change.”). It

seems as if there is always a new storm, wildfire, or natural disaster that is ravishing a particular
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part of the world. As climate change becomes an increasingly intense issue, these weather

patterns will only become worse.

Droughts and extreme heat are one of the side effects of worsening climate change. The

effects of droughts will be amplified in several areas. More droughts would mean an amplified

stress on water supplies in areas that already face water scarcity. Increased droughts will affect

food supplies. The lack of moisture will decrease crop production, creating stress on food

supplies. Transportation will also be affected. Harsh, warm temperatures will cause river levels

to decrease, making it difficult for boats to travel. Even wildfires will increase as a result of

droughts and energy production could possibly become hindered because of the need for

water. These side-effects will have a direct impact on human and animal life.

Hurricanes are also a predicted weather extremity that will see effects from climate

change. A direct correlation of the number of hurricanes being dependent on climate change

has not been reached by scientists, but the impacts of the hurricanes are projected to become

more intense as the temperatures continue to rise. (“Extreme Weather and Climate Change.”).

Hurricanes have been becoming increasingly more intense and as they become more

calamitous their effects will be heightened. Hurricanes are very costly, in both money and lives

lost. The world will see more damage in coastal cities and the homes of citizens. Governments

will have to pay a lot of money in order to restore homes and other buildings. Rescue teams will

also have to be organized and financed in order to retrieve victims safely. Stronger hurricanes

are immensely dangerous and climate change has the ability to increase them.

More intense wildfires are also a result of climate change. Changes in the climate have

caused excessive heat levels and more severe droughts. These both are leading causes of
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wildfires. Warm temperatures and dryness allow wildfires to spread more easily and makes the

wildfires a more extreme event. Scientists have studied the wildfire trends and have come to a

conclusion that, “Large wildfires in the United States burn more than twice the area they did in

1970, and the average wildfire season is 78 days longer” (“Extreme Weather and Climate

Change.”). Wildfires cause extreme damage, cost billions of dollars in reparations and often

result in the loss of life. The United States faced a devastating trend of wildfires in 2018 on the

California coast. These fires ravished communities and homes. Videos on the news showed

haunting shots of fires burning miles and miles of neighborhoods as people fled from the

danger in their cars. These increased fires are an extreme effect of climate change and are

predicted to become even worse as the issue magnifies.

Fig.1. California neighborhood destroyed by a wildfire in 2018 (Sullivan).

As well as the damage caused by an increase in extreme weather conditions, climate

change is predicted to also cause critical damage to infrastructure. Climate change is expected
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to exceedingly cause issues in cities all across the world. Cities will be particularly affected

because each system is interconnected. For example, if energy production suddenly decreases

as a result of extreme weather or lack of water resources, then transportation will become

compromised. Transportation has already been affected by extreme weather conditions,

lessening the efficiency of roads, bridges, railroads, cars, and boats. As intensified extreme

weather takes place, infrastructure must be improved to be able to withstand more when it

comes to natural disasters. Any damages by the increased weather changes will also come at a

high cost for urban areas, especially along the coasts. The world will have to respond to the

effects of rising temperatures by improving infrastructure in order for it to withstand damage

by climate change effects such as intensified hurricanes and more prominent wildfires. By

minimizing the impact climate change will have on the Earth, cities all over the globe would be

able to avoid the high costs of maintaining climate change safe cities.

Not only is infrastructure going to become increasingly unstable and more costly to

maintain, but so are the many ecosystems around the world. Scientists have studied the

declining habitats of animals for many years. They have made conclusions that as a result of

climate change, these animals face extreme difficulties in their environments. One example is

the animals in the Arctic. Warmer temperatures are causing the ice caps to melt. This leaves
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ice-dwellers in quite a predicament as their home is slowly diminishing. This will cause a stress

on many animals and even push some towards extinction. Coral reefs are also facing danger.

Fig. 2. Coral reefs before and after carbon absorption and ocean acidification (Sullivant).

The Environmental Defense Fund observes “Coral reefs are highly sensitive to small changes in

ocean temperatures” (“How Climate Change Plunders the Planet.”). That is a significant reason

as to why such a small increase in global temperatures is such a critical thing. Coral reefs are

home to thousands of species and their demise would be disastrous to ocean ecosystems.

Other vital species in danger are the trees that make up the world’s forests, “Milder winters

and longer summers allow tree-killing insects to thrive” (“How Climate Change Plunders the

Planet.”). Climate change will allow these insects to flourish as they attack weakened trees. The

slight change in seasonal patterns would be devastating for trees all across the globe. Each half

degree would become more and more harmful for so many species around the world. The

ecosystems at risk benefit our lives. For example, trees provide clean air, wood, and a home for

several different types of animals. Every part of our lives would be impacted if trees were
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harshly affected by climate change, and that is only one ecosystem of the many that would be

impacted if global warming continued at the current rate. Not only will animals and the air be

affected, but future generations will face a huge cultural shift in how they interact with nature

and the environment. As more species face major damage and several reaching extinction, the

way humans look towards wildlife will be completely different. The only way we can avoid

detrimental damage to our ecosystems is to dramatically cut back on emissions and other

contributed factors of climate change.

In addition to the danger ecosystems face, the health of humans across the globe will

also become a victim to climate change. Human health is projected to be significantly impacted

by climate change. Extensive changes will be seen in health in areas such as increased stress, a

decrease in air quality, exposure to newly developed illnesses, and more. Intensified weather

events will destroy the homes of hundreds of people and often take human life. As these events

become more common as a result of climate change, people are even more at risk of being

injured or dying because of extreme weather such as hurricanes, droughts, flooding, and

wildfires. Climate change also has an impact on the number of insects and pests year-round.

With longer summers and shorter winters, insects are able to thrive. People will be attacked

and become more susceptible to the disease-carrying insects just like the trees.

Furthermore, there are several ways that climate change will impact the vitality human

health. The U.S. Global Change Research Program predicts that climate change will change

human health in two prominent ways. The first will be seen as climate change changes the

extremity and prevalence of current health problems that are dependent on weather and
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climate. Health will also be changed as climate change causes the development of new health

threats that the world has not seen before (“The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health

in the United States: A Scientific Assessment.”). Climate change impacts are projected to harm

people in a wide variety of ways. Extreme heat will cause heat-related deaths to increase

substantially. This explicitly harms people that are already living in poor conditions and in

severely hot areas such as Africa. Air quality is likewise affected. USGCRP states “Rising

temperatures and wildfires and decreasing precipitation will lead to increases in ozone and

particulate matter, elevating the risks of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses and death”

(“The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific

Assessment.”). As the world dramatically changes, so will the air that people breathe. This will

cause an increase in the current air-related diseases, but it will also cause unknown illnesses to

become a rising issue. Climate change creates a plethora of impacts that when combined

together can have deadly consequences. Similar impacts are predicted to be seen through

flooding, vector-borne diseases, food quality or supply issues, water-related diseases, and even

mental health. Changes in the environment will cause an increased amount of stress on people

through distress, grief, and social impacts. All of these will have a negative effect on mental

health. Climate change is not just a matter of slightly higher temperatures but it will cause

death and destruction in every aspect of life. It is so critical that action is taken now in order to

prevent devastating impacts on physical and mental health.

Another important and terrifying impact of climate change would be increased stress on

food and water supplies. The National Climate Assessment projects that warmer temperatures

will cause an intensified stress on water supplies and thus cause a disturbance in water
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availability in some areas in America and the rest of the world (“Fourth National Climate

Assessment: Summary Findings”). Several climate change related impacts will change the

availability of clean water. More intense droughts and an increase in potential water

contamination from insects or extreme weather will directly affect how much water countries

will have available to them. This will put increased stress on communities all around the world,

not just the United States. Areas that already experience water stress are the ones that will be

affected the most. Climate change effects will be amplified for underprivileged and

disadvantaged communities and they will experience the most damage. The increased water

stress will also place a huge burden on energy sources. Some energy sources rely on water to

be able to produce energy. This would place a burden on an area that already will be impacted

by regulations put in place in order to keep the climate change issue from spiraling out of

control.

Food supply will also be impacted. Many food sources are absolutely dependent on

climate and weather. Increasing temperatures and extreme weather conditions will place a

huge strain on agricultural productivity throughout the world. Extreme heat conditions will

place stress on livestock, declining production in the meat and dairy industries. An increased

water-stress, excessive heat increase, and extreme weather conditions will make it difficult for

crops to thrive. This will affect the economy as well as severely hurt areas that already

experience food insecurities. According to a recent report “Climate Change, Global Food

Insecurity, and the U.S Food System”, climate change will impact food supplies significantly by

dwindling any efforts towards establishing food security across the world. The limitation of local

availability caused by this will lead to price increases and reduced food safety (“Climate Change,
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Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System.”). World hunger rates would skyrocket as a

result and the health of children in need around the world would be diminished. Child

malnourishment is already a major issue. Families that live in poor conditions and experience

the worse of food supply stress will be the ones that are affected the most by climate change.

Gerald Nelson and the other authors of the Food Policy Report from the International Food

Policy Research Institute claim, “By 2050, the decline in calorie availability will increase child

malnutrition by 20 percent relative to a world with no climate change” (Nelson). Many of the

programs and organizations dedicated towards erasing child hunger around the world would be

futile in the incoming years because of how devastating climate change will be on any efforts to

relieve world hunger. Action against climate change must be taken now in order to prevent an

even bigger food crisis than the world is facing right now.

Finally, the number one area that will be affected due to climate change is the economy.

The effects of climate change in several areas throughout the world will cause an extraordinary

increase in costs for combating the impacts. Money will be needed to repair damages done by

extreme weather. Infrastructure will need to be replaced either because of damage or because

of the updates needed to make building, roads, and property able to withstand massive

amounts of wear and tear. There will be a demand in cures or medicine for people harmed by

health issues caused by climate change. Money will be needed to develop new ways of

maintaining water quality and new techniques for agriculture.

The required steps necessary for fighting climate change and keeping global

temperatures from rising above 1.5ºC will be extremely costly. In a New York Times article,

Carol Davenport describes the graveness of the situation, “the report says that heavy taxes or
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prices on carbon dioxide emissions –perhaps as high as $27,000 per ton by 2100– would be

required” (Davenport). This would almost be unattainable given the current political climate the

United States is in. The necessary action in order to prevent the most extreme damage from

climate change is nowhere near being reached. Especially as the world is distracted by so many

other issues.

Not only are people distracted, but there is still a large part of the population that

believes that climate change is a hoax. Even the President adamantly claims that climate

change should not be treated as a real issue. But the popularity of climate change denial can be

traced back to how the issue is dealt with by politicians and how it is portrayed in mainstream

media. In politics, money is often favored and the people with the money usually accomplishes

what they need. This is directly reflected by how the climate change issue has been handled for

decades. Big oil and coal corporations have funded politicians in exchange for their interests

being protected. Thus, politicians decide to ignore the climate change issue and push it aside

for a later time in order to receive money from the corporations that benefit from climate

change being ignored. Now, after years of avoiding the issue, climate change has nearly

become unbeatable. Mainstream media has also played a part in pushing back any progress by

affecting how the climate change issue is portrayed. In Michael Mann’s book, The Madhouse

Effect, he explains that media outlets have portrayed climate change as a controversial issue by

emphasizing the doubt about climate change. While the media portrays the debate being

evenly split among experts, but in reality, there is 97% support in the scientific community that

there is evidence of human-caused climate change (Mann). Mainstream media has allowed the

public to think that climate change is a much more unsure issue than it truly is and has allowed
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doubt to fester among citizens. The climate change issue has been ignored for so long that the

world is now running out of time to prevent the most extreme damage.

Yet the financial aspect of how much needs to be done in order to reduce damage is still

in the way of any process being made. Governments around the world are hesitant to make the

big changes because of just how costly they will be. But the cost of damage reparations will

increase extensively if nothing is done now to prevent global warming over 1.5ºC. Davenport

explains the enormous financial burden climate change will be, “the estimated $54 trillion in

damage from 2.7ºC of warming would grow to $69 trillion if the world continues to warm by

3.6ºC” (Davenport). Projected costs show why it is so critical that action is taken now to prevent

the rising temperatures and the other detrimental effects of climate change. World leaders and

governments must realize that by waiting any longer, there are greater risks to be faced.

Projected impacts in weather, ecosystems, infrastructure, agriculture, human health,

and the economy reveal why it is so important that action to reverse climate change happens

now. The world is facing an international crisis. The IPCC’s report was a warning siren and we

must make sure we are listening in order to prevent insurmountable damage. We cannot wait

any longer. Our time for waiting is up and what actions we take next will determine the future

for many generations to come.


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Works Cited

“Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?” Edited by Holly Shaftel, NASA, NASA, 21
Mar. 2019, climate.nasa.gov/evidence/. Accessed 3 April 2019.

“Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System.” U.S. Global Change
Research Program, Dec. 2015,
www.usda.gov/oce/climate_change/FoodSecurity2015Assessment/FullAssessment.pdf.
Accessed 3 April 2019.

“Climate Change.” United Nations, United Nations, 2019, www.un.org/en/sections/issues-


depth/climate-change/index.html. Accessed 3 April 2019.

Davenport, Coral. “Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040.”
The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Oct. 2018,
www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/climate/ipcc-climate-report-2040.html. Accessed 3 April
2019.

“Extreme Weather and Climate Change.” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 21 Feb.
2019, www.c2es.org/content/extreme-weather-and-climate-change/. Accessed 3 April
2019.

“Fourth National Climate Assessment: Summary Findings.” National Climate Assessment, U.S.
Global Change Research Program, 1 Jan. 2018, nca2018.globalchange.gov/. Accessed 3
April 2019.

“How Climate Change Plunders the Planet.” Environmental Defense Fund, 2019,
www.edf.org/climate/how-climate-change-plunders-planet. Accessed 3 April 2019.

Mann, Michael E., and Tom Toles. The Madhouse Effect : How Climate Change Denial Is
Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy. Columbia
University Press, 2016. EBSCOhost,
sinclair.ohionet.org:80/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=
nlebk&AN=1341925&site=ehost-live. Accessed 3 April 2019.

Nelson, Gerald C., et al. Climate Change: Impact on Agriculture and Costs of Adaptation. vol.
21, International Food Policy Research Institute, 2009, Intl Food Policy Res Inst,
play.google.com/books/reader?id=1Vpe0JvYTJYC&hl=en&pg=GBS.PR6. Accessed 3
April 2019.

Sullivan, Justin. “A Neighborhood Destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California.” AXIOS,
Paradise, California, 16 Nov. 2018, www.axios.com/california-camp-wildfire-death-toll-
paradise-04db9de9-8354-439f-b7d9-65734b01fa7a.html. Accessed 3 April 2019.
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Sullivant, Rosemary. “Excess Carbon Absorbed by the Ocean Threatens to Turn Coral Reefs,
One of the Most Diverse and Important Ecosystems on Earth, into Ghostly Bleached
Wastelands.” NASA Climate Change, 20 Oct. 2008, climate.nasa.gov/news/13/climate-
change-seeps-into-the-sea/. Accessed 3 April 2019.

“The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific
Assessment.” The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A
Scientific Assessment, USGCRP, 4 Apr. 2016, health2016.globalchange.gov/. Accessed 3
April 2019.