Life on earth will not be the same in the future. Some say change is a good thing. Climate change is not. For many of us, the future is something that holds new oppurtunities, excitement, and wonder. However, with the direction we are heading, the future will not be much to get excited for. The purpose of this presentation is not to relieve you of your fears. It is to make you more conscious of them.
Effects of Climate Change
Rising Sea Levels
Quite possibly the greatest threat of all to mankind is the rising sea levels. As our GHG emissions increase so does the earth’s temperature. As a result, the ocean is heated up to 90% more than usual, causing the water in it to expand. Additionally, glaciers and ice caps are beginning to melt. Greenland and Iceland alone contain about 70% of the world’s freshwater, and if the Greenland ice cap were to melt, the sea levels would rise an entire 6 meters.
Just 1% loss of ice on the West Antarctic ice sheet and East antarctic ice sheet would equate to about a 76cm rise. If all the ice on earth were to completely melt away, the sea would rise by a whopping 70 meters. With this kind of glacial melt, the city of Tokyo would be entirely submerged in water. However, lucky for us, we are not yet looking at sea level rise of this magnitude. The future of sea-level rise mainly relies on how much CO2 we emit. According to the new IPCC report, judging by our current trend in emissions, the likely sea-level rise by 2100 is 80cm to 1meter. This may not sound like a lot, however, according to the world bank, 5% of the world population lives in areas less than 5 meters above sea level.
So, how does this sea level rise affect us humans? Coastal civilizations all over the world are already beginning to be affected. Many people who live close to the ocean are beginning to have their land flooded and become uninhabitable. The island nation of Kiribati has been affected so badly that it’s people are starting to emigrate. Additionally, higher sea levels can contribute to more powerful storm surges, making hurricanes and typhoons much more destructive. Many countries are currently trying to prepare for this by planting mangroves, building sea walls, and rethinking road construction.
Heatwaves and Droughts
With GHG emissions, also comes an increase in heatwaves and droughts. By mid-century, if GHG emissions are not reduced, the coldest and hottest days of the year in the US are expected to rise by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. The National Climate Assessment estimates that by 2050, there will be 20-30 more days a year with temperatures in the 90’s. Additionally, the number of days in the 100’s will double, and the days in the 105’s will triple.
Heatwaves ultimately play a large role in increasing drought frequencies and intensity. Warmer temperatures cause more moisture to evaporate from the soil, making periods with precipitation drier. A change in the climate can also alter atmospheric rivers (narrow streams of moisture transported in the atmosphere), which can disrupt precipitation patterns. In this way, climate change has a direct impact on heatwaves and droughts.
In the US, extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths, with an average of 600 deaths per year. Heat stress occurs when the body is not able to properly cool itself anymore because sweat can not evaporate properly due to the high humidity. High temperatures can also be especially harmful to agriculture. Certain plants like corn, soybeans, and wheat require cooler temperatures at night to grow properly. Livestock can also be affected, with milk production from cattle decreasing in higher temperatures. Droughts have also been affecting transportation. Transport barges in the Mississippi river need at least 9 feet of water to move, and droughts can affect the water level in these places, making transport difficult. Droughts also create perfect wildfire conditions. Warmer and drier conditions also help fires spread and make them harder to put out. Finally, warmer and drier weather contributes to the spread of the mountain pine beetle. Mountain pine beetles are incredibly destructive to U.S. forests.
Here are some ways we are trying to combat this:
- Creating heat preparedness plans and opening up cooling centers for people to escape the heat
- Installing cooling roofs and roads to reduce the urban heat island effect
- planting trees to provide shade and evapotranspiration to cool the air around them
Global warming is thought to have an effect on the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Hurricanes, typhoons and other tropical storms, to be exact. Global warming is speculated to have an effect on decreasing the temperature difference in the poles. With less of a temperature difference, storms are less likely to form. However, even if the number of storms decreases, the intensity of them could go up. As temperatures rise, more and more water evaporates into the atmosphere, turning into fuel for a storm. Along with an increase in precipitation, this can also have an effect on wind speeds. Even if it is proven that global warming does not have a direct effect on storms, other aspects of climate change can contribute to the intensity of a storm. With a rise in sea level, storm surges will become much more destructive. Likewise, with sea-level rise, this is being combatted with the building of sea walls.
Species extinction is also a direct result of climate change. Scientists say that we are currently upon our 6th mass extinction event. A major cause behind many of the extinctions is habitat destruction. A large one in places like Australia is wildfires. Wildfires destroy forest habitat which many species rely on for food and shelter. Ocean acidification is another massive factor. With the increase in carbon dioxide being dissolved into the oceans and water temperatures rising, coral reefs are dying off at an ever-increasing rate. Coral reefs are one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems, with as many as 4,000 species of fish calling it their home. Many species rely on the reef for food and shelter. Without it, many species will starve and die off.
In Australia, warmer winters are making mountain pygmy possums come out of hibernation earlier than their prey, causing them to starve to death. Warmer weather is more suitable for the life of pests and pathogens, which allows for them to spread their territory and increase their populations. In the US, mountain pine beetles have been decimating forests all across the country, killing more than 26 million acres. These beetles thrive in the warm and dry weather caused by climate change. In ways like these, climate change plays a direct role in the extinction of species.
For Now Idea
My project idea was to write a science fiction short story depicting what I believe our future will look like. I took the scientific information about the effects of climate change which I wrote about above and paired it with my own imagination to create a story of a future world. The purpose of this story is to spread awareness about the future that we could end up living in if we do not make a change in the way we live. I feel like sometimes, fear is the best way to induce action. I hope that this short story can bring about feelings of fear and mild panic, making the reader want to make a change. My community is one that is very diverse, thus making it a very open-minded one. I believe that they will be more open to listening as a result. I hope that this story will be an entertaining but informative way of spreading a message. For now, I have only included the beginning of my short story, as I believe that I will not be able to create a quality short story in the limited time I have. Once I finish the final product, I will make sure to update the site. Thank you so much for your time.
Here is the link to the start of my short story:
It would be greatly appreciated if you fill out this form. It is a questionnaire asking about the effect that the beginning of my short story had on you. It would be helpful for me to know how I can improve it:
How can you help?
Here are some articles you can read to find out how you can do your part: