When you think of climate change, what comes to mind? Perhaps you’ve heard that the Earth’s temperature has increased by over 1 degree Celsius since 1900, or maybe you’ve seen the intense floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events happening across the world.
Many of these impacts of climate change are well-known, yet they barely scratch the surface when it comes to the severe impacts it’s having on our planet. Whether you’re a parent or a person of faith, a beach-goer or a sports fan, a foodie or a travel junkie, climate change affects someone or something you care about.
Climate change is making the planet a harder place to live for already vulnerable communities, pushing more people into poverty, displacing millions, and leading to more frequent outbreaks of deadly diseases. It’s not just humans that climate change is affecting either, animals are suffering too, and, in some cases, being driven to extinction.
Here are nine shocking — and some surprising — ways climate change is already making the world worse.
1. It's pushing more people into poverty.
As Leonardo DiCaprio has wisely pointed out “the environment and the fight for the world’s poor are inherently linked." In fact, it has been estimated that, by 2030, climate change could push more than 120 million more people into poverty.
Climate change plagues all countries, bringing with it severe droughts, supercharged storms, and blistering heatwaves. But these natural disasters and the impacts they are having — from reduced access to health care to jeopardised food security — are unevenly felt around the world.
The impacts are being most felt by already vulnerable countries with people living in poverty being the most affected. Not only does it worsen inequality in a country, but these disasters leave people already living in poverty with even fewer resources to cope.
For example, when hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the poorest communities were hit the hardest and were the furthest away from recovery. While many wealthy people left the island or used their resources to rebuild after the disaster, poor families have had to wait months or years for assistance from an underfunded relief effort. Each day they wait leaves them poorer.
Climate change-induced drought, which is affecting mostly countries in the Global South, also reduces the availability of food and increases prices, leading to many families going hungry because they simply cannot afford to eat.
2. It’s coming for our fish and chips.
It's the UK's number one go to take-away meal, but your local fish and chip restaurant may cease to exist due to climate change as rising temperatures lead to fish shortages. But that's not all.
In fact, climate change is disrupting global food production. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, the result is more heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires. Those conditions make it difficult for farmers to grow food such as wheat, maize, corn, rice and coffee beans, which can lead to an increase in crop failure.
About 80% of the global population most at risk from crop failures are located within Global South countries such as South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where farming families are disproportionately poor and vulnerable.
In addition, as global temperatures rise due to climate change, so does the risk of fungus pathogens. Why is this a threat to global food production? The rising temperatures create a perfect environment for fungi already living in plants to become pathogenic and could spread from country to country through extremely dry air and strong winds, which could lead to them growing within the soil of crops that are essential to feeding the world population, such as rice, wheat, soybeans and potatoes. Scary stuff.
3. It’s displacing more people than ever before.
Imagine losing your home or livelihood due to a devastating flood, or being forced to flee your home due to rampant desertification.
This is the reality for millions and millions of climate refugees who live on the front lines of the climate crisis. As the threat of climate change increases globally, their numbers will grow exponentially.
According to UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, an annual average of 21.5 million people have been forcibly displaced due to climate change since 2008. In fact, it is estimated that there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050.
4. It’s threatening the humble pint and glass of wine.
Did you know that grapes are highly sensitive to temperature changes? They can rot or fail to ripen if the conditions aren’t right, which, you guessed it, is a side effect of unpredictable weather. And what's to blame for unpredictable weather? Climate change.
Meanwhile, hops and barley fields are also likely to suffer, meaning that the humble pint could also be impacted. Moreover, wildfires have already destroyed vineyards in areas such as Spain and California.
5. It’s increasing outbreaks of deadly diseases.
Global warming increases the risk of disease outbreaks spread by organisms such as viruses and bacteria. In fact, over half of infectious diseases have been made worse by climate change.
How? By creating the perfect environment for disease-carrying animals and insects (such as bats, rodents, and some primates) to move into parts of the world that are heating up and creating the environments that allow pathogens to thrive and making zoonotic (infectious diseases caused by germs that spread between animals and people) exposure more likely.
What’s more, floods and storms can lead to wastewater overflow which leads to an uptick in water-borne diseases like cholera.
6. It’s increasing the cost of housing.
For many, buying a home is a distant dream due to the current cost of living crisis and ever-increasing cost of buying a house. Add climate change into the equation and now that dream seems downright impossible.
Why? Construction is now also factoring in the increase in adverse climate impacts and disasters, while the costs associated with construction and even of home insurance are rising.
7. It’s affecting the internet.
Something that much of the world heavily relies on to function is the internet.
Whether it’s in the workplace, in school, for online banking, replying and sending emails, or providing critical communications links, particularly to remote, low-income areas, the internet isn’t just a nice-to-have; for many, it’s a vital tool. In fact, the UN has called for universal access to the internet by 2030.
However, internet outages could be on the rise due to climate change. According to new research, the flow of digital information through fiber-optic cables lining the sea floor could be compromised by rising sea-levels caused by climate change.
In addition, the research found that the ocean and nearshore disturbances caused by extreme weather events have exposed “hot spots” along the transglobal cable network, increasing the risk of internet outages.
Damage from such internet outages could have devastating consequences for governments, the private sector, and nonprofit organizations whose operations rely on the safe and secure flow of digital information.
8. It will lead to more lightning.
Did you know that lightning strikes the Earth around 8 million times a day? That number could rise significantly as global warming accelerates. Why? Climate change is making the air warmer, which allows it to hold more moisture, and both of those factors can boost the chance of thunderstorms.
While it can be pretty to look at, lightning has potentially devastating effects from causing forest fires, to extensive damage to electrical equipment and power grids.
9. It will lead to bumpier plane rides.
Bad news for those who are afraid of flying: climate change could increase turbulence on plane journeys.
Air circulation patterns are becoming less predictable because of climate change leading to much bumpier flights — so much so that turbulence has become the most common cause of airline accidents. In 2021, more than 65% of severe injuries on planes recorded by US accident investigators were a result of planes entering choppy skies.
You can help take action to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, from extreme weather, to displacement, to the impact on the global food supply. Join Global Citizens around the world who are getting involved in our Power Our Planet campaign, and join the call on world leaders, business leaders, the world's banks, and more, to take the urgent and widespread steps needed to combat climate change and its effects. Get started by taking action NOW.