We all know the general pattern of climate change: higher temperatures, melting ice caps, rising sea levels.
But climate change encompasses the entire planet and, as such, it encompasses the various aspects of our lives as well. Every day is affected by the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the ongoing breakdown of global ecology.
Many of these impacts are well-known.
For many elderly people, it’s no longer feasible to live without an air conditioner as temperatures rise. These same heat waves are making it harder to work in outdoor professions such as agriculture and construction. They’re also accelerating ice melt in the polar regions: dumping billions of gallons of water into the ocean, where it sloshes and spills over coastlines, filling streets with seawater. As many people are finding out, you can’t live in the ocean. You also can’t live in areas devastated by droughts and wildfires.
From whatever angle you take, climate change seems to be shrinking our capacity to live, removing freedoms that we once took for granted. But many of its effects are more subtle, gradually slipping into and disrupting our day-to-day lives.
Here are six surprising ways that climate change is making your life worse right now.
1. Worse Sleep
Sleep is critical for our well-being. Without it, we can’t handle stress well and feel exhausted. Now climate change is making it even harder to feel rested. Rising nighttime temperatures have been shown to disrupt quality of sleep as people sweatily toss and turn on their mattresses. Another study found that people who are affected by wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters — a growing number annually — struggle to sleep well for months after the calamity. And then there’s the chronic stress caused by climate anxiety, the sleepless nights spent dreading about the sixth mass extinction.
2. More Intense Allergies
Every spring, waves of pollen cause itchy eyes and clogged noses. Now that climate change is making the allergy season longer, people everywhere will have to contend with more intense allergies. Add to that worsening air pollution and pervasive plastic particles, and suddenly taking a breath of fresh air becomes a thing of the past.
3. Fewer Food Options
Over the past century, supermarkets in many parts of the world have become places of superabundance, where food from all over the world, regardless of the growing season, can be purchased. But this era of convenience is coming to an end as climate change disrupts global food production. Soon, you might have a hard time finding or affording staple crops like rice and wheat products, fruits like peaches and cherries, and seafood like sardines and scallops. Even the drugs and indulgences that people depend on to get through the day — coffee, tea, wine, and chocolate — are becoming more expensive and harder to find.
4. Higher Rent
For most people around the world, the rent is already too damn high. Now climate change is jacking up costs even more. Increasing natural disasters means that new factors need to be considered when constructing new homes and buildings. Properties in hurricane-prone areas need stronger walls, windows, doors, and roofs. Those in coastal areas need to be raised on stilts and fortified with salt-resistant materials.
If a home is planned for a region facing more wildfires, then durable insulation needs to be incorporated into the design. The general rise in temperatures worldwide means that efforts will have to be made to reduce the capacity of homes to absorb heat. Insurance, meanwhile, is rising exponentially. As a result, you might already be paying more to rent or buy a home.
5. Fewer Places to Swim
As heat waves become more intense and frequent, many people will find relief in bodies of water. But climate change is making it harder to find a safe place to swim. Increasing droughts mean that many bodies of water have been deprived of renewing rainfall and have entirely dried up in recent years. Other freshwater lakes have succumbed to algae blooms — toxic proliferations of algae — due to rising temperatures. Even coastline beaches are vanishing amid rising sea levels.
6. Worse Traffic
If there’s one thing that pretty much everyone can agree upon, it’s that being stuck in traffic is miserable. That landlocked feeling. The boredom and fatigue. The blaring horns, loud radios, and toxic fumes.
Now climate change is making traffic even worse. As weather patterns become more erratic, transportation infrastructure such as roads, tunnels, and bridges will face increasing stress, causing breakdowns and failures. The result? More time stuck in traffic.
But maybe there’s a silver lining to this last inconvenience: Perhaps it will hasten the end of the automobile.