How is climate change affecting different aspects of the world’s weather?

By Hammond Green Team Members

How does climate change affect the world’s water supply?

Climate change is very real and has dire implications for our Earth’s water resources, which are critical to the survival of our societies and our ecosystems. We rely upon a safe and pure supply of water to maintain our health. We also use water for agriculture, energy production, navigation, recreation, and manufacturing. Unfortunately, in many areas, climate change is predicted to increase water demand while shrinking water supplies. Warmer temperatures increase the rate of evaporation of water into the atmosphere, which can dry out some areas and cause excess precipitation in others. As these temperatures rise, both people and animals need more water to sustain their health and thrive. Moreover, many economic activities, such as producing energy at power plants, raising livestock, and growing food require water, but these activities may be reduced as the Earth warms, water supply decreases, and competition for water resources increases.

This shifting balance will further place pressure upon societies to meet the needs of their growing populations, fragile ecosystems, farmers, ranchers, energy producers, and manufacturers, all at the same time. While some areas may not experience severe water shortages, other places that are confronted with increases in rainfall might suffer from more runoff, flooding, and rising sea levels, which can reduce the quality of water. Heavy precipitation can augment the amount of runoff in rivers and lakes, carrying sediment, pollutants, trash, and waste into water supplies and making them unusable and contaminated. Increases in rainfall also correspond with a higher risk for flooding. Furthermore, as sea levels rise, saltwater is being pushed into areas with drinkable, freshwater supply, increasing the salinity of our drinking water and making it unsafe. In addition to contaminating the quality of water, rising water levels also amplify storm surges and the risk of flooding, since water starts flowing onto land at a higher level. Therefore, climate change is detrimental to our world’s water supply and can majorly disrupt the balance of life in our Earth’s societies and ecosystems.

How does climate change impact heat-related weather disasters?

As climate change causes the Earth to get warmer due to greenhouse gases being trapped in the atmosphere, it is also increasing heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires that have disastrous effects on both animals and humans. Although high temperatures may not spark fear, they should be viewed as a threat. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat kills more Americans each year than any other weather hazard. 50 years ago extreme heat in the United States was rare, but there have been a significant number of heatwaves in the past two decades. This problem is not unique to America, it is happening globally. For example, the European Heat Wave of 2003 killed around 70,000 people and, in 2010, 56,000 people died in a heatwave in Russia. A study written by German climatologist Stefan Rahmstorfand and climate change researcher Dim Coumou states that there is a 80% probability that the heatwave in Russia would not have happened if it wasn’t for global warming. Almost all of the extreme heat waves that have taken place in the last decade have been directly linked to climate change. Like heat waves, droughts are worsening as a result of global warming too. In the past century, droughts have increased in prevalence and duration, particularly in the United States. The warmer weather has the potential to increase evaporation from the soil, leaving it dry and harming plants in the process. Drought affects agriculture and can lead to famine in nations facing food insecurity. They can also create ideal conditions for wildfires. Little rain paired with low humidity dries out vegetation providing fuel for the fire. An electrical error, lightning, or a man made fire has the potential to get out of hand and cause major destruction. Wildfires happen frequently, especially in the western United States, but the fire season is being lengthened by the hotter, drier, climate. Wildfires destroy agriculture and homes, and can even cause human casualties.  Global warming and climate change have disastrous effects on the weather, from extreme heat to drought, and even wildfires. These natural hazards are becoming increasingly common due to the changes in the environment and will only worsen without intervention.

How does climate change contribute to natural disasters?

It’s no secret that climate change has had numerous global impacts on many aspects of the planet’s atmospheric phenomenon, so it’s not surprising that it has had an impact on natural disasters. One of the most costly instances of these incidents are hurricanes, which are tropical storms that form over warm tropical waters to create tropical cyclones. By raising temperatures, these storms become increasingly more likely to form, potentially causing new additional damage that could cost many billions of dollars. Tornadoes are more difficult to gather specific data on, but scientists have theorized that changes in global temperatures could change the thresholds for tornado creation, these being wind shear and atmospheric instability, causing unpredictability in expected tornado timings and regions, changing the most at-risk areas in a manner that would be impossible to quickly document and take action upon. Finally, snowstorms have been predicted to increase in intensity due to the effects of climate change as well. Experts believe that a warmer atmosphere will allow for higher moisture levels, thus causing more intense precipitation causing snowfalls to increase in severity to a noticeable degree. Unfortunately, due to the relatively short amount of time environmentally impactful human industrialization has existed relative to the history of our Planet, the unpredictability of the impacts of climate change will likely continue to be an obstacle in humanities efforts to combat climate change into the future. 

How can you help?

Here are a few solutions to mediating the effects of climate change on our environment:

  • Reduce food and water waste:
    • According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 11% of all the greenhouse emissions that come from the food system could be reduced if we stopped wasting food. When food rots and goes to landfills, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas which absorbs the sun’s heat, and thus contributes to global warming and increasing global temperatures. Help reduce methane in landfills by only buying  and consuming what you can finish!
  • Recycle:
    • Recycling helps reduce gas emissions and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, which can in turn improve the health of our environment. Recycling and reusing recycled materials is a big way to help mitigate climate change!
  • Reduce your meat consumption:
    • Believe it or not, reducing your meat intake can help lower greenhouse gas emissions! Meat/dairy industries produce tons of greenhouse gases which is a huge concern for the environment. By reducing the amount of meat you consume, however, you can help lower the amount of greenhouse gases the meat/dairy industry releases into the atmosphere.
  • Advocate against the use of natural gas and promote clean energy!
  • Plant trees
    • Cutting down trees releases carbon dioxide into our atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Planting a tree, on the other hand, can absorb carbon dioxide and will slow down climate change.
  • Reduce/save energy by using renewable energy, such as solar energy and wind energy
  • Spread the word
    • Spread the word and help people become aware of the environment! You can do so simply by sharing this article or posting information on social media.

 For more ways to help, check out this informative guide on how to act on climate change!