What Harm Will Climate Change Cause?


If we continue on the current path, U.S. coastal areas will be at increased risk from sea level rise and more intense storms that erode beaches and damage structures; southern states will be at risk from increased droughts, floods and heat waves; Midwestern states will face more extreme flooding and more heat waves; and western states will face increased droughts, invasive species, and wild fires.

In addition, scientists point to more rapid sea level rise, increased loss of ice from land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice. Sea level rise will increase coastal flooding and eventually inundate low-lying areas, including many coastal cities around the world. Earlier spring snowmelt will also reduce the clean water supplies on which many parts of the world depend.

These climate impacts are likely to be costly. We can get a sense of the magnitude of these costs by looking at examples of the type of severe weather events that are likely to get worse because of climate change, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Russian heat wave, and Nashville’s “1000-year” flood in 2010. The damage from Hurricane Katrina was equivalent to one-third of the combined gross domestic product of Louisiana and Mississippi. In New Orleans, property damage excluding reductions in economic output exceeded $80 billion. The city’s population was cut in half as 200,000 people fled. Today, the population is only at 88 percent of pre-Katrina levels.

Climate change will not just harm property, though. Human health may be affected by climate change through extreme heat waves, an exacerbation of air pollution, severe weather, and increased spread of infectious diseases.

Source: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

Website: http://www.c2es.org/science-impacts/basics/faqs/climate-science

This article is part of our educational series on Climate Change. See related articles below.