Learn the repercussions of climate change on humans.
How does climate change affect us?
Climate change has contributed to and will continue to contribute to many dramatic effects that we humans experience. Climate change undoubtedly affects our environment, which further contributes to the effects that we see and feel as humans. The cumulative effects on humans can be directly or indirectly traced to climate change.
Here are some of the ways that climate change can affect us now and in the future1:
- Increasing food scarcity and food prices: Increasing temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns are creating extreme droughts in many regions of the world. When droughts occur, livestock and crops suffer. Unfortunately, it is not only droughts that can cause significant damage to crops. When frosts begin to occur later in the growing season or in regions that do not normally experience frosts, it can cripple entire agricultural industries. Unpredictable frosts are the result of changing climate patterns and extreme temperatures. Warmer temperatures and increased moisture can also increase pathogens or fungi that can wipe out entire crops. All the damage that climate change does to livestock and crops can be felt directly by consumers with higher prices and fewer options.
- Diminished water quality: Heavy precipitation and extreme weather events can cause water runoff from cities to overflow sewage systems. This allows untreated sewage to enter bodies of water that supply the drinking water. Also, runoff from cities can contain numerous other pollutants that it picks up from commercial industries, vehicles, and household chemicals. All these pollutants enter the drinking water supply along with the untreated sewage. The same occurs in rural areas, but instead, you may see larger quantities of animal waste, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides enter the drinking water supply.
- Outdoor activities become more difficult: Over the past few decades, climate change has increased the occurrence, duration, and frequency of regional heat waves. Construction workers, miners, agricultural workers, firefighters, and many other types of workers do a majority of their labor outdoors. When temperatures are extremely high for long periods of time, doing work outdoors becomes increasingly difficult and oftentimes dangerous. Heat waves can be dangerous not just for outdoor workers but also for workers who work in a large industrial building or compound with little to no climate control. Even if you do not work outdoors, your ability to exercise and enjoy outdoor recreation safely becomes more difficult with the increasing presence of heat waves. Every year, thousands of people are sent to the ER with heat-related illnesses from both outdoor work and outdoor recreational activities.
- Increased damage to our homes and businesses: Climate change has increased the frequency of severe weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms, and flooding is often a direct result of these types of natural disasters. Flooding, landslides, and heavy precipitation can do significant damage to homes and businesses. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lack of precipitation can increase the conditions that cause wildfires. Wildfires, like flooding, are responsible for millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses located throughout the United States.
These examples above are only a few of the many ways that climate change directly affects humans and the environment. Other examples include increased allergies, increased pathogen and disease presence, higher electric bills, power blackouts, rising taxes, and much more.
How does climate change affect human health?
Climate change, directly and indirectly, affects the environmental determinant of health, especially when it comes to clean air, clean drinking water, sufficient food production and availability, and secure shelter.
Other main health impacts have to do with the following conditions that are a result of and exacerbated by climate change2:
- Extreme heat: Extreme air temperatures can contribute directly to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, especially in the older demographic. Also, higher temperatures can raise the levels of ozone and other pollutants in the air that can cause complications in people who have pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. Aside from an increase in air pollutants as a result of extreme temperatures, people can experience heatstroke, extreme dehydration, and other adverse health effects during a prolonged period of extreme heat.
- Natural disasters: Natural disasters have the immediate impact of destroyed homes, businesses, and medical facilities, but they can also cause longer-term damage to local economies. Rebuilding after a natural disaster is extremely expensive, and not all natural disasters are covered by insurance. As sea levels rise and temperatures increase, there is going to be a likely increase in coastal flooding and severe weather events. Natural disasters can also take out crops, livestock, and contribute to food scarcity. Flooding that is a result of natural disasters can provide the breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes and other insects. Disease can easily spread and enter into the drinking water supply during times of flood as well.
- Increased infections: Climate change can help create the environmental conditions needed for water-borne and air-borne diseases and infections to thrive and spread rapidly.
These are some of the most basic ways that human health is impacted by climate change. There are still numerous other human health impacts to consider as well that can have dramatic and adverse effects on our health.
How does climate change affect the global economy?
The global economy is affected by climate change in many ways. Looking at different economic sectors, you can have more specific forecasting for what kinds of potential losses will be suffered from a continued increase of global surface temperatures and changes in climate and precipitation patterns.
For example, the most vulnerable sector of the global economy is agriculture. Floods, droughts, wildfires, all results of climate change, can do epic damage to farmland. The loss of crops and livestock can make a dramatic impact on parts of the world that are economically dependent on the success of agriculture. This includes many areas of the developing world, but also many regions within the United States whose biggest economic drivers are agriculturally based. For example, any significant damage done to the pig population or corn crop in Iowa could have regional economic consequences that would be catastrophic to many of the local economies. Even though most of the consequences would be felt locally, there would still be a ripple effect that would affect the entire U.S. economy as well as corn and pork prices3.
How does climate change affect a country?
Climate change can affect a country by having some sort of influence and consequence on every aspect of that country’s health, economy, and infrastructure. Climate change impacts the overall health of a country’s population, it can have dramatic economic impacts on all sectors of a country’s economy, and it can increase the frequency of natural disasters that destroy homes, businesses, and infrastructure.
How is the U.S. affected by climate change?
One of the largest ways the U.S. is affected by climate change is that not only have natural disasters increased in frequency, they have increased in severity as well. Hurricanes are stronger. Heavy rainfall can create more flash floods and landslides, or the lack thereof can create longer drought cycles and wildfires. The wildfires that are occurring burn hotter and longer, and the potential damage they can cause is increasing rapidly4.
What countries are most affected by climate change?
As mentioned earlier, climate change will affect many aspects of life. Across all aspects, these ten countries are considered to be the most affected or the most at risk from the devastating consequences of climate change.
The list includes the following countries5:
- Sri Lanka
Although every country in the world is at risk of some sort of devastation as a result of climate change, these countries represent the countries that will be the greatest affected in the next few decades.
How does climate change disproportionately affect communities in poverty?
Impoverished communities can be disproportionately affected by climate change and its consequences for many reasons. For example, impoverished communities typically rely on the success of their seasonal crops as a source of income. These natural disasters due to climate change hit agricultural communities the hardest as food scarcity can result from floods, drought, and wildfires. Prolonged food scarcity can create famine, which then creates a migration crisis, and any influx of a greatly impoverished population into an already economically delicate region, can create further problems for everyone involved. Impoverished communities of the world are more likely to be agricultural societies where there is a lack of employment opportunities and a lack of commerce6.
What are large-scale solutions to climate change?
If we fail to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we will face devastating impacts across the board. On a large-scale, there are actions that need to be taken to reduce climate change effects. These actions include electrifying as much fossil fuel-reliant products or services as possible, and moving to 100% renewable energy production for commercial and consumer use. It will take entire industrial committees and government bodies to enact these positive changes and ensure their successful introduction or progress7.
What can individuals do to reduce the effects of climate change?
As an individual, you can help reduce the effects of climate change by finding ways to use energy more wisely on a daily basis. For example, you can do this by installing energy-efficient appliances, unplugging unused electronics, and switching to renewable or cleaner energy sources8. As an Inspire member, you can accelerate the world’s transition to a net-zero carbon future by accessing renewable energy for your home.
You have the power to make a difference by signing up for a 100% clean energy supply plan for your home. Not sure if renewable energy is right for you? Read some of our Inspire Clean Energy reviews to see how we've helped customers make the switch.