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5 Surprising Ways that Climate Change Will Affect Us In the Next Decade

How Climate Change Will Shape Our Lives in the Next 10 Years

By Olivia L. DobbsPublished about a month ago 7 min read
5 Surprising Ways that Climate Change Will Affect Us In the Next Decade
Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

Since the dawn of the environmental movement, scientists have reported potentially apocalyptic doom scenarios if we fail to mitigate the effects of climate change. From rising sea levels, to record-breaking temperatures, to unprecedented storm events, our failure to reduce emissions has been [rightfully] painted as a looming dystopia.

But these “most charismatic” events related to climate change hardly scratch the surface of the types of effects we are likely to see in the next decade. Beyond the acute disasters that will occur due to our impact on the climate, and will likely gain the most media attention, there are many chronic and enduring effects that deserve our focus as well.

Below, discover five ways in which human-caused climate change will likely affect humanity in the next decade.

“Slower” Hurricanes

In 2019, Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas. Though the region was not unfamiliar with hurricanes and storm events, this particular storm hit the region harder than any other storm in recorded history. Along with record-breaking wind speeds of 185mph, the storm behaved unlike any before it: “Dorian crawled at 1 mph then stalled for more than 36 hours, exposing Grand Bahama to an extended period of destructive winds and flooding”.

The average hurricane moves roughly 15 mph meaning that, despite the intensity, the effects in a single location usually last less than half a day. But over the past 70 years, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average due to our changing climate. And, unfortunately, the longer that a hurricane’s wind and rain persist in the single location, the greater likelihood that damage and flooding can occur.

The slowing of hurricanes will become even more common as our climate continues to warm around the equator, as increasing ocean and atmospheric temperatures will make it easier for hurricanes to remain “fueled” for longer.

Increased Rate of Illness

Our changing climate has reportedly already exacerbated diseases and non-transmissible conditions. According to the WHO, this threat will be the most obvious effect of climate change in the next couple decades.

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and heat stress.

- Climate Change and Health

The effect that climate change has on health is multifaceted. Vector-borne illnesses like Malaria, for example, will likely experience a range expansion, due to increasing temperatures allowing for the vector (the mosquito) to thrive in more extreme latitudes. Peoples who have not had to historically develop immunity to illnesses like Malaria, dengue fever, chikungunya, and West Nile virus will suddenly be faced with encountering these diseases. In addition, new diseases may emerge from our melting glaciers as ancient bacteria thaw.

But changing temperatures and worse storms may also affect our susceptibility to diseases by decreasing our overall health and wellbeing. Heat stress, worsening air quality, food insecurity-caused malnutrition, and worsening water quality can all have an effect on our body’s ability to fight against diseases. Along with increased ranged of disease - and the potential for totally new ones - we may become worse at dealing with the ones we have already, as our immune systems real from other climate change caused environmental hazards.

Increase in Income Inequality

When climate change-led disasters strike, everyone feels the effects. But, the lasting consequences and repairs are not evenly distributed within human populations. The people most affected by these events will be those that can’t afford to adapt.

Those individuals, cities, and countries who have substantial income will be able to rebuild after disaster strikes, but not everyone will be able to afford that luxury.

When climate change begins to decrease the availability of resources, creating a mismatch between supply and demand, prices will likely rise, making it significantly more difficult for lower income peoples and states to afford necessary commodities. When resources dwindle, their availability shrinks economically upwards.

When the commodities in question are necessary for survival, like crops and water, this will likely also lead to an increased tension between the upper lower classes. We’ve already seen an increase in conflict due to resource scarcity. The impending higher demand for resources, paired with a lower supply will likely cause more and more income inequality and tension amongst individuals, economic groups, and states.

Culture Clashes

When resources dwindle to the point that necessitates migration, peoples across the globe may find themselves in new, unfamiliar lands. Heat, drought, famine, and storm danger will likely push people towards more extreme latitudes. Considering that most people live in the tropical and subtropical zones of the planet that will be particularly subject to the worst effects of climate change, a huge amount of people could find themselves displaced over the next decade.

In addition, rising tidal events and average sea levels may push people inland. Considering that roughly 40% of the earth’s human population lives on the coast, this shift has the potential to have profound effects on human distribution across the globe.

Historically, mass migrations of people have caused cultural growing pains for all those involved - as both immigrants and endemic inhabitants. Cultural conflicts and xenophobia are likely to increase due to this climate change-caused phenomena.

Bonus: Check out this website to see a distribution of population by latitude and longitude.

A Change in Diet

In the 1700s, lobsters were considered the cockroaches of the sea. They were in such abundance that they were used for fertilizer and fish bait for other, more desirable ocean catches. The lobster was seen as a poor man’s meal, only fed to prisoners, servants, and slaves. But, due to innovation and industrialization, the animal caught on as a source of protein. As their numbers dwindled, the price climbed and climbed until, today, it’s considered an expensive delicacy to be enjoyed only at the fanciest of occasions.

As the oceans warm and many species die off as they fail to adapt to the rapid ecological changes, the fish and ocean creatures that we choose to eat will likely also change. The supply for a high demand must come from somewhere. The ocean creatures we currently deem “too gross to eat” or “cheap” may become tomorrow’s delicacies.

Additionally, some crops may simply die out or fail to yield as much produce over the next decade. NASA scientists predict that “increases in temperature, shifts in rainfall patterns, and elevated surface carbon dioxide concentrations from human-caused greenhouse gas emissions” will alter which crops can be viably grown in certain climates across the globe. Though the greatest effects of those won’t be felt in the next decade, we’ll likely see odd shifts in produce prices, and farmers may begin to make the choice to switch to new crops that haven’t been traditionally grown in their region.

The science is published, and it’s clear that in this decade, the effects of climate change are going to get worse before they potentially get better. Scientists are no longer talking of prevention, the goal has shifted to limiting damage and repairing in time for the next generation.

The consequences listed above are likely, and not likely to be mitigated in time. Though a proactive approach to this issue would have prevented the loss of lives and great economic costs, we still have a chance to make a positive difference in our lifetimes and in the lifetimes of those who will come after us. It’s not too late to start listening. It’s not too late to start acting.

Despite the inevitability of these effects, we can limit their severity with collaboration, advocacy, and governmental support. If we continue at this rate , we can potentially continue to make earth worse and less habitable for ourselves and a wide swath of other creatures.. If we make positive changes for the sake of humanity and solve the problem this decade, however, we can live long enough to see nature begin to repair from the industrial era.

The decision is ours.

Interested in Learning More About Helping the Environment?


About the Creator

Olivia L. Dobbs

Science Enthusiast, Naturalist, Dreamer.

Check out my science! ->

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