We talk a lot about climate change. Most of us understand what it is and why it’s happening. We understand what scientists are telling us; that the tipping point is upon us and if we don’t act now, we may not be able to mitigate the coming changes. Of course, we try to tell the deniers, try to convince them that a small amount of doubt doesn’t wipe out the huge amount of proof. I get why people deny it. It’s scary and, like little children hiding from a monster under a blanket, they operate on the “if I can’t see it, it’s not there” scenario. But it is there. And denial only makes it worse.
Perhaps what people need is to see how climate change is and will be affecting them on a personal level. One of the arguments the deniers throw out is that it will cost money to do something about climate change. Yes, it will. But when the survival of the planet is at stake, shareholder profits should be the least of our worries. They ignore the fact that climate change is costing us billions right now. Drought, floods, severe weather… these are all exacerbated by climate change. Cleaning up after floods and storms — or, in the case of droughts, trying to save or import water — costs money now.
If these massive and far-reaching examples of climate change don’t make an impression, maybe this list of ways it affects us on a personal level will.
1. Food prices. According to the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, the warming caused by climate change will drive up the price of food. Crops in California’s Central Valley, where a great deal of our produce comes from, will see a yield decrease of up to 30 percent. Other growing areas will see similar reductions. The bee die-off is one reason (thank you Monsanto); pollination is key to crop yield. The frost season may be shortened or disappear altogether, which will affect crops that need it to grow. Add storage, processing and transportation costs, and your trip to the grocery store will take up more of your paycheck.
2. Water. As we are seeing in California, lack of precipitation has a disastrous effect on potable water. Reservoirs are not filling up because snowfall has declined. Warmer temperatures drive up water demand both for drinking and cooling. And don’t forget what drought will do to farming, which leads us back to point one. The world’s water supply is finite. It is important that we all understand this. It is not limitless. If we continue to do nothing, we will one day face a world with no water.
3. Infrastructure. With the extreme weather and floods comes a toll on our already weakened infrastructure. We have neglected our roads, bridges, electrical grids, railroads, sewer and water systems for far too long. We have ignored warnings about them, even when they fall or fail. It would cost too much, we’re told. Apparently, Congress and state lawmakers don’t understand the old adage about being penny wise and pound foolish. The roads you drive, bridges you cross and systems that you rely upon to live your life will be soon be overwhelmed and we will be left trying to play catch-up.
4. Breathing. Air is even more important than water for our survival; it is impossible for us to live for more than nine minutes without air (if you’re lucky). Ozone is expected to rise to almost ten parts per billion. This will trigger a rise in asthma and other breathing difficulties. Longer growing seasons means longer pollen seasons. And, with the rise in carbon dioxide, the pollen count will also go up. So if you have allergies, stock up on the tissues and diphenhydramine.
5. Comfort. With hotter summers and colder winters, the demand for cooling and heating will climb. Air conditioning and heaters use a lot of electricity. Electricity is mostly generated by burning coal and hydropower. The former emits the gasses that got us into that situation and contributes to dirty air besides (point 4). Hydropower relies upon water (see point 2). Republicans (and, yes, some Democrats) resist switching to cheaper and cleaner forms of energy production, what with being in the pocket of the oil, gas and coal industries. Wind, thermal, solar and other clean forms of energy are being held back by the refusal of those industries and their pet Congress Critters to fund research and construction of them. If you like being comfortable in your home and workplace, you should let them know.
6. Health. As noted in point 4, the air quality is crucial to human health. As temperatures soar in the tropics, people will die of heat-related events like heat stroke and exhaustion. Floods in other areas lead to an increase in waterborne illnesses and exposure to toxic chemicals. Diseases like malaria, yellow fever, dengue and typhus travel through water or water-loving insects such as mosquitoes. Add to that stress-related conditions and the previously mentioned respiratory effects. It all adds up to more illness, more death. And you could be one of those number, especially if you travel a lot.
7. Rising sea levels. If you live near the ocean, as a great number of the population does, you better start eyeing higher ground. We have already seen the ice melting in the Arctic. Glaciers have shrunk or disappeared completely. Sea level has been rising since the middle of the 19th century but only recently began to do so at a faster rate. Estimates say that up to 33% of coastal land will be lost in the next 100 years. That’s if sea level continues to rise at the current rate. If we do nothing and that rate increases, start shopping for an upland home. And if you love polar bears you’ll have to remember them with pictures and video.
8. Sex. Yep, even your sex life will be affected by climate change. A recent study from researchers at Tulane University suggests that the amount of sex we have will decline due to the heat. Their study showed that when temperatures rose over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the birth rate nine months later went down. One single day over 80 degrees leads to the birth rate being reduced by 0.4 percent. The reason? The “physiological cost of coitus on a given fertile day.” In other words, it’s too hot to do it. Air-conditioning helps, of course. But using it contributes to the climate problem. Catch 22, as they say.
Climate change is real. Despite the deniers clinging to that measly 3% of scientists — mostly oil, gas and coal shills — a small amount of doubt does not preclude the huge amount of evidence in its support. If we don’t get our shit together and start doing something about it, we are headed for our possible extinction. You think it’s expensive to do something about climate change? Try not doing anything. We need to realize that we are being affected now. Our health, our livelihoods, our daily lives. You are being affected now. It’s time to wake up.
Featured Image via NASA