• Escalating Natural Disasters
The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges our planet has ever faced. Over the past few decades, humans have transformed their planet by emitting vast amounts of additional heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This increase in temperatures has resulted in a rise in global temperatures, which has led to more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, and other climate-related disasters.
As the climate crisis continues to take its toll on our planet, natural disasters are occurring more often and with greater intensity than ever before. While there is still much debate over the exact extent to which climate change has contributed to the prevalence of natural disasters, research suggests that the escalating frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are the direct result of our warming planet.
For instance, rising sea levels associated with the climate crisis have led to an increase in tidal flooding and coastal erosion around the world. The upsurge in ocean temperatures due to climate change has also caused more powerful and deadly hurricanes and typhoons. Additionally, the worsening global drought conditions, caused by rising temperatures, have exacerbated the severity of wildfires. Meanwhile, in colder regions of the world, extreme cold temperatures are becoming more common as the climate crisis amplifies the impact of Arctic air masses.
Rising Sea levels
As global temperatures continue to rise, the melting of formed glaciers has caused a tremendous rise in sea levels. This rise in sea levels has caused an increase in tidal flooding, which can have a devastating effect on coastal areas. A 2018 study published in Nature Communications predicted a 28-to 76-centimeter (11-to 30-inch) rise in global ocean levels by the end of this century, due primarily to the continued melting of glaciers due to climate change.
In the United States alone, 60% of the coastline could be affected by flooding due to rising sea levels.
The impacts of coastal flooding can be immediate and severe. Coastal flooding can cause major property damage and loss of life, as well as devastating environmental impacts. In addition, larger areas of land are inundated and become submerged, leading to the loss of valuable habitat for flora and fauna. This can affect delicate marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, which are already suffering from human-caused warming of oceanic waters.
The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and typhoons, is increasing due to the climate crisis. Higher ocean temperatures, associated with global warming, are playing an important role in creating more powerful storms. For example, research suggests that higher sea surface temperatures led to the record-breaking strength of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Similarly, warmer air temperatures have also been linked to more intense and destructive winds associated with cyclones.
The effects of intense storms can be devastating. Strong winds, flooding, and storm surges have led to significant property damage, as well as loss of life, in hurricane and typhoon-affected areas in recent years. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused over $125 billion in damage, making it the second-costliest hurricane in US history.
More generally, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, as the climate crisis continues to affect global temperatures. As global temperatures continue to rise due to excessive greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather events will continue to increase in frequency and intensity.
Wildfire season is becoming longer and more severe due to increasing global temperatures and worsening drought conditions. According to the US National Climate Assessment, climate change has led to an increase in the area scorched by wildfires in the western United States, as well as Alaska.
Warming temperatures have resulted in drier climates in much of the western United States, exacerbating the severity of wildfire seasons. The extended and heightened fire season can create further environmental damage – including more pollutants in the air – and additionally creates a greater risk for human safety and property.
Extreme Cold Temperature
Climate change is not only associated with extreme heat but also with extreme cold temperatures. Record-low temperatures, such as those experienced across the Midwest and Northeast US in February 2021, are becoming more common as a consequence of climate change.
Climate change has resulted in a decrease in Arctic sea ice, which has in turn created a “warm Arctic, cold continents” phenomenon. Decreases in Arctic sea ice cause Arctic air to push farther south into colder regions of the world, resulting in more extreme cold temperatures and storm systems.
The climate crisis is causing increasingly severe natural disasters, affecting the entire planet. Rising sea levels and warm ocean temperatures have led to more frequent and intense floods, hurricanes and typhoons. Similarly, drought conditions, essential due to rising temperatures, have led to an increase in damaging wildfires. Finally, decreases in Arctic sea ice have exacerbated the prevalence of extreme cold temperatures.
Although it can be difficult to directly link any single extreme weather event to the climate crisis, it is clear that global temperatures are continuing to rise due to excessive emissions of greenhouse gases. This warming of the planet has had devastating consequences, many of which will continue to increase if not adequately addressed. As such, it is imperative that nations, cities, and individuals take action to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and combat the climate crisis.