12 Sep How does climate change affect us?
Global climate change is not a future problem. How does climate change affect us?
Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are already having widespread effects on the environment:
- glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking,
- river and lake ice is breaking up earlier,
- plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting,
- and plants and trees are blooming sooner.
Effects that scientists had long predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves.
The severity of effects caused by climate change will depend on the path of future human activities.
More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more climate extremes and widespread damaging effects across our planet. However, those future effects depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide we emit. So, if we can reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.
Global sea level has risen about 0.2 meters since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. By 2100, scientists project that it will rise at least another 0.3 meters, but possibly as high as 2.4 meters, if we continue carbon emissions at our current rate. Sea level is rising because of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms.