Effects & Impacts of the Climate Crisis

Understand the environmental, socioeconomic, and political impacts of climate change, a major global problem with significant global ramifications.

Environmental

We’re facing the biggest environmental challenge our species has ever seen. Rising temperatures, rising sea levels, higher ocean temperatures, extreme weather, shrinking glaciers, thawing permafrost are examples of our changing climate that we can see. Global warming is likely to be the greatest cause of species extinctions this century.

  • The IPCC says a 1.5°C average temperature rise could put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. If the planet warms by more than 2°C, most ecosystems and animals will struggle.
  • The earth’s north and south extremities are crucial for regulating our planet’s climate and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.
  • Oceans are vital ‘carbon sinks’, meaning that they absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, preventing it from reaching the upper atmosphere. Increased water temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations than normal, which make oceans more acidic, are already having an impact on marine life.
  • Forests are vitally important as they soak up CO2, and help regulate the world’s climate. They’re also home to countless plant and animal species. Forests around the world are already under immense strain from logging and clearing the land for agriculture or grazing, or using the timber for fuel, construction or manufacturing. Climate change only makes matters worse.
  • Climate change is having serious impacts on the world’s water systems through more flooding and droughts. Warmer air can hold a higher water content, which makes rainfall patterns more extreme. Extremes of drought and flooding will become more common, causing displacement and conflict.
  • Rivers and lakes supply drinking water for people and animals and are a vital resource for farming and industry. Freshwater environments around the world are already under excessive pressure from drainage, dredging, damming, pollution, extraction, silting and invasive species. Once again, climate change only exacerbates the problem.

Socioeconomic

Urban areas have unique characteristics that render them and their residents particularly vulnerable to climate change. There has been significant research illustrating the economic and social challenges facing cities around the world because of climate change including energy shortages, damaged infrastructure, increasing losses to industry, heat and extreme weather-related mortality and illness, and scarcity of food and/or water. Research also suggests that these challenges are interrelated. Economic losses make it difficult for residents to maintain their livelihoods and can therefore exacerbate social issues including poverty and hunger. Additionally, some demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of cities can make them especially vulnerable to climate change impacts.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Climate Change Resilience Index released in 2019 measured the ability and readiness of the world’s 82 largest economies and found that based on current trends the fallout of warming temperatures would shave off three percent of global GDP by 2050. The Index rates countries based on eight indicators that assess their capacity to withstand the impacts of higher temperatures and more extreme weather events.

Research shows that being rich is an advantage (i.e., North America and Western Europe), but institutional quality matters, too. Institutional quality is a major determinant of long-run economic growth, and the findings point to the importance of institutional quality for minimising the impact of climate change. Findings show that Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe are the least resilient when it comes to facing impacts of climate change. As the global crises worsens, people in less resilient nations are forced from their homes due to draughts, natural disasters, and other weather events that threaten their daily lives. These people are sometimes called “climate refugees”.

Climate change could affect our society through impacts on a number of different social, cultural, and natural resources. For example, climate change effects human health, infrastructure, and transportation systems, as well as energy, food, and water supplies. Additionally, climate change is deeply intertwined with global patterns of inequality. The most vulnerable people bear the brunt of climate change impacts yet contribute the least to the crisis. As the impacts of climate change grow, millions of vulnerable people face greater challenges in terms of adapting and mitigating the climate crisis.

Political

The changing politics of climate change deals with polarizing views of causes and cures for climate change to trust in climate scientists and their research. Thinking about the security implications of climate change means thinking about how groups, nations and institutions adapt to the reality of our changing climate. GHG emissions contribute to global warming across the world, regardless of where the emissions originate. Yet the impact of global warming varies w