Arguably the world's largest global problem with the ability to impact every life on Earth, climate change has become one of the most talked about issues worldwide. From flooding to forest fires, impacts of pollution and increased greenhouse gases are shaping the world and in turn, shaping society.
Global temperatures rose about 1.98° (1.1°C) from 1901 to 2020, but climate change refers to more than an increase in temperature.
It also includes sea level rise, changes in weather patterns and extreme weather, and much more. Climate changes becomes an increasing threat globally due to its ability to affect: water, energy, transportation, human health and ecosystems.
The impacts of climate change will disrupt the natural, economic and social systems we depend on. This disruption will impact global food security, damage infrastructure and jobs, and harm human health.
Impacts of climate change are unevenly distributed around the world, with some countries facing far greater risks than others. However all countries and communities will feel the effects of climate change.
Climate change - What has changed?
When we discuss climate change, it is important to consider and revise what it has actually changed and its effects.
Sea level rise has accelerated from 1.7 mm/year throughout most of the twentieth century to 3.2 mm/year since 1993.
Glaciers are shrinking: average thickness of 30 well-studied glaciers has decreased more than 60 feet since 1980.
The area covered by sea ice in the Arctic at the end of summer has shrunk by about 40% since 1979.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 25% since 1958, and by about 40% since the Industrial Revolution.
These facts and figure, signify the devastating impacts climate change has had so far therefore, amplifying the need for change before these figures increase.
How is climate changing impacting society?
Climate change impacts our society by disrupting the natural, economic and social systems we depend on. This in turn will effect food supplies, industry supply chains, damage infrastructure and cities, and significantly disrupt global development.
The impacts of climate change are already here. Global sea levels have risen 19cm since the beginning of the twentieth century, increasing the risk of flooding for many coastal cities and communities.
Globally, heatwaves and droughts are becoming more common, last year the UK recorded its highest temperature in over 50 years at, 40 degrees Celsius. Extreme weather events are becoming significantly more frequent with the UK. Winter floods in 2013-14, cost the economy £450 in losses due to rainfall in England and Wales. The European summer heatwave in 2018, which led to wildfires in part of the UK, was made around 30 times more likely due to climate change. These losses impacting communities financially, creating homelessness and loss of income for families.
How will climate change impact society in the future?
As temperatures increase, the impacts of climate change will grow.
If emissions are not decreased and global warming reaches 4°C by 2100, sea levels in the UK could increase by around 1 m, which would put 3.3 million people at risk of flooding by 2050.
Global food supply chains would also be less secure as extreme weather events and habitat degradation disrupt supply chains. This in turn, could lead to higher food prices and up to 183 million more people facing mass world hunger.
Even just half a degree of warming can make the difference between dangerous and manageable effects. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C, would lead to 420 million fewer people being exposed to extreme heatwaves, and 10 million people would be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels.
In saying this, these impacts are not evenly distributed and some regions of the planet will feel the effects of climate change more severely than others depending on their location and ability to adapt. For example, Bangladesh is frequently cited as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change due to, its disadvantageous geographic location. It is flat and low-lying with a high population density and high levels of poverty, meaning their are significantly vulnerable.
However, because both the climate system and human societies are globally interconnected, the effects of climate change will impact all countries and societies in some way.