While there’s always uncertainty involved in long-term predictions, science tells us that the future looks bleak if we continue to go on our current path.
Luckily there is still time for us to turn up the heat on the policymakers of this world to take action. But if they don’t, we’re destined to feel the heat ourselves — experience a series of catastrophic events of apocalyptic proportions by the middle of the century.
Let’s take a look at some of the possibilities, some of which we already are experiencing.
Displacement due to rising sea levels
Sea levels are constantly rising these days. In fact, according to the data provided by the United States Geological Survey, sea levels may rise by as much as 19 inches by the year 2050 — and that’s just what they are pegging as the “mid-range” ballpark figure, and including the most stringent measures to take control of gases that contribute to global warming. Things could get much worse, threatening all cities in coastal and low-lying areas.
Unless prompt action is taken by governments to stem the tide of carbon pollution, as much as 1 meter of increasing sea levels may be possible. That’s not counting the possible melting of ice sheets in Greenland as well as ice caps, which could very well double those projected levels further.
This would pose far-ranging consequences for the people living in low-lying coastal areas. And when this population displacement occurs worldwide, this can cause a refugee crisis the likes of which have never seen in the entire annals of history.
Rising coastal sea levels may also contribute to erosion, flooding of habitats for endemic flora and fauna, and contamination of agricultural land and aquifers. That’s not to mention the vaster, more violent storm surges that possess the potential to tear everything in its disaster radius.
More destructive typhoons, cyclones, and hurricanes
Global warming, the likes of which created by human causes, is drastically increasing worldwide oceanic temperatures. These contribute to more intense hurricanes that carry even more precipitation and wind than usual.
We can expect fiercer manifestations of these storms with severe rains, more tumultuous winds, and worse flooding than ever before. Bad weather events will also happen more frequently, making it more important than ever to be prepared for such a catastrophic weather event.
This is already being observed — and hurricanes fueled by climate change are causing increased casualties.
A spread of diseases
As temperatures continue to increase, rainfall patterns are becoming unpredictable, and summers are becoming much longer than usual.
This allows insects to breed for longer durations across wider swathes of land, increasing the public’s health risk from debilitating diseases like dengue or malaria, along with other mosquito-borne illnesses that were hitherto unknown and nonexistent in the United States (including West Nile Virus).
Furthermore, the increased risk of flooding will impact big cities the most. This may, ultimately, prevent large cities from treating waste and sewage properly, which can conversely amplify the risk of diseases spreading in packed, dense areas.
Widespread collapse of entire ecosystems
Imagine a world without pandas, tigers, lions, and other unique flora that the Earth has been blessed with. Most of us don’t realize how important a role these graceful, majestic creatures play in the ecosystems they live in. This wildlife is what keeps entire ecosystems afloat even in the face of global climate change.
Ecosystems are central to local and global economies the world over, and help us enjoy things we take for granted. Think potable water, crop pollination, or medicines from natural sources. If we continue to pillage the natural world as we are right now, we can expect a global economic collapse arising from its ashes.
But here we are, irrevocably destroying the basic building blocks of life that has sustained the planet for millennia.
While “global warming” seems to be a term with “comfortable” connotations, nothing is further from the truth. Rising global temperatures will certainly have far-ranging and downright calamitous consequences, especially in developing countries.
Think about this for a second. Heatwaves have become more common since the middle of the 20th century, and are becoming hotter and longer in duration. People living in the dense, thick concrete jungles in the big cities are going to be impacted the most by these terrible heat waves. Heatwaves are the #1 cause of death arising from weather, as it triggers heart attacks, allergies, and asthma, among other possibly fatal maladies.
More violent, hotter wildfires
Wildfires are part and parcel of forests, but droughts in wildfire areas have shown that increasing temperatures are to blame for creating optimal conditions for wilder, more violent wildfires. This is due to the longer summers, significantly drier conditions, and more instances of lightning strikes.
Fire seasons become much longer than many states are prepared to deal with, and drier conditions leave a lot of tinder waiting to be struck by lightning – making for the perfect wildfire. Recent research shows that the damage resulting from wildfires by acres burned may double by 2050.
Drought is caused by extended periods of low or nil rainfall, among other factors such as hotter weather (which causes more water to evaporate). Climate change is responsible for the pervasion of hotter, longer heat waves that are desiccating agricultural land, killing crops, and creating wastelands.
Deforestation also plays a pivotal role in causing drought. The existence of trees keeps rainwater saturated in the ground, preventing it from being totally dried out by the sun.
Furthermore, droughts rank among the costliest weather-related disturbances known to man, even in the US. Drought dries out entire ecosystems, kills off entire populations of animals, and even causes people to turn on each other.
Case in point, it has been suggested that one of the key factors for the disorder and chaos that ultimately led to the civil war in Syria was, in fact, a severe drought. And man-made climate change has made the chances of more droughts in the war-torn region even more likely to happen.
Droughts have ravaged the land and emptied entire reservoirs of water in the western world. However, the most chilling effects of drought can be seen in developing countries like India and Pakistan, where farmers have paid the ultimate price – their own lives.
There is still time for us to change the road we’re on – while the damage that has been done may be irreparable for some aspects, we all still have a chance to pressure the bigwigs in power to take drastic steps and conserve what we still can of the only home we’ve ever known – the Earth