Although there are still a few die-hard conspiracy theorists who believe climate change to be a completely bogus concept, most of the major scientific communities and nations have agreed that climate change is real. Not only is it real, but it’s accelerating at a remarkable pace, and as a South African emigrant or international jetsetter extraordinaire, you may be wondering how this will impact you.
The facts to back up climate change
There’s a lot of evidence to support climate change, but what makes the current warming trend so significant is the fact that it’s most likely human-induced and accelerating at unprecedented rates.
Here are the facts:
- Ice cores from Greenland, Antarctica and tropical mountain glaciers show the earth’s climate is affected by greenhouse gases.
- These same ice cores indicate that significant global climatic changes happened very quickly in the past, sometimes in tens of years, and not thousands or millions as people believe. This, scientists believe, shows we are accelerating to earth’s sixth mass extinction.
- In the last century, global sea levels have risen by approximately 17 centimetres. The rate in the last decade is nearly double that of the previous century though.
- Though the earth has warmed since 1880, most of the warming has occurred since 1970, with the 20 warmest recorded years occurring since 1981 and the 10 warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.
- The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica decrease by up to 250 cubic kilometres per year as measured between 2002 and 2006.
- The acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by approximately 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution – this has been ascribed directly to human carbon dioxide emissions.
- Rising temperatures are responsible for reduced crop yields, increased precipitation and flooding, decreased stream flow in river basins, increased risk of wildfire and changes to natural habitats, ecosystems and migratory patterns of animals.
- Global warming can lead to more snowy weather as well – as increased moisture in the air due to melting ice caps and hotter air around the globe contribute to better conditions for snow-formation. In fact, this hotter air can interpose periods of drought with heavy floods in the same region.
- Global warming is affecting seasons around the globe. The phenomenon scientists call ‘Spring creep’ has been occurring worldwide and has seen Spring starting 10 days earlier on average across the globe.
- Climate change increases risk of diseases like malaria and heat-related deaths such as heat stroke. It therefore really is a matter of life or death.
- Climate change will also lead to mass extinction and displacement of animal species across the world.
Okay, so we understand that climate change is a real thing, but how will it affect you? Well, essentially global warming is already affecting you. And even if you don’t care about all the natural or climatic issues listed above, climate change also impacts the economy.
How global warming affects the economy
Although responding to and resolving global warming was initially seen as an economic headache, economists have started to feel the pinch of not putting preventative measures in place.
The cost of these preventative measures, of course, is quite steep. It would mean putting environmental protocols in place which could limit factory production, mining activities and job creation. This would mean significant financial losses for big shots residing over corporates and energy magnates. It would also mean that these big industries should be held accountable for their environmental impact. Just look at the latest Volkswagen scandal, and you’ll see how much a company stands to lose – whether or not they play their cards right.
But things have changed, and as it currently stands, the world is beginning to see how climate change can cripple the economy. Some of the reasons include:
- Climate change can cause damage to property and infrastructure. As more harsh climatic events cause floods, drought, a rise in sea levels, more snow and wildfires, the world stands to spend a significant amount on repair of infrastructure like roads, bridges, homes, airports, power lines, dams and levees.
- These same climatic events can lead to disruptions in daily life and ‘business as usual’ as people aren’t able to trade, transport, attend work and school and perform their daily tasks.
- Climate change necessitates mass migration and resultant security threats to countries. Poor farming practices as well as droughts, floods and rising sea levels could push people to live in other areas. Climate expert at Yale, Steven Sherwood, warned that areas of the United States, India and China will simply become unbearable to live in if global temperatures continue to rise. And the resultant migration could lead to civil unrest, social disruption, poverty and famine.
- Production and operational costs will skyrocket if climate change isn’t addressed. Farmers, in particular, will need to provide additional irrigation, protection against severe weather for livestock and additional early warning systems for severe weather events.
- Cost of living will increase dramatically across the globe. Foodstuffs and production become more expensive due to a rise in operational and transport costs. Houses will need to incorporate better heating and cooling systems and so forth.
- Fossil fuels and gas are finite resources. This is something we already know. And in addition to the lack of resources we will face in the future, the cost of searching for and producing these resources will climb dramatically in future.
Areas most affected by global warming
Although we must all contribute to climate change decline, the fact remains that the world is changing. These changes have a greater impact on some areas of the globe than others. You may be wondering which countries will be affected most by climate change. Risk, of course, is measured by probability of extreme weather events, water stress, loss of crops and land, as well as rise in sea levels and civil unrest due to resource insecurity. These countries are:
- Sierra Leone
- South Sudan
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of Congo
These may be developing countries, but climate change will not leave the first world untouched. Some areas which will undoubtedly suffer as a result of climate change include cities close to coastlines that are not high enough above sea level, cities in semi-desert areas, cities next to river beds, cities close to ice caps, grasslands or mountain peaks.
According to Bloomberg Business, major cities which will be impacted by climate change include:
- Miami, U.S.A.
- Guangzhou, China
- New York, U.S.A.
- Kolkata, India
- Shanghai, China
- Mumbai, India
- Tianjin, China
- Tokyo, Japan
- Hong Kong, China
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Ningbo, China
- New Orleans, U.S.A.
- Osaka-Kobe, Japan
- Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Nagoya, Japan
- Qingdao, China
- Virginia Beach, U.S.A.
- Queensland, Australia
So irrespective of where you are in the globe, climate change will affect you and your children. Luckily, the message seems to have hit home, and most people are now contributing towards a greener, more eco-friendly society. Remember to recycle, plant trees, use electricity and other resources sparingly, use organic and environmentally friendly products and teach your children about the environment.
And if you’re planning on emigrating, plan ahead and choose an area with a stable climate and environmentally friendly policies and services.