6 Ways Climate Change Will Drastically Change Your Everyday Life

August 1st 2015

The term climate change can sometimes sound like we are talking about a nebulous future tense. Phrases like “leaving the world better for your kids and grandkids” can have the effect of allowing us—individuals and politicians—to kick the can down the road when it comes to acting on climate change. However, as Pope Francis reminded us in a frank and powerful encyclical—we cannot.

Climate change—which 97 percent of climate scientists say is happening and is very likely man-made—will impact our everyday lives, if not today, then very soon. Here are six important ways climate change is predicted to affect our everyday lives.

1. Food

There are a variety of different ways that climate change will disrupt food production.

First of course is weather; scientists predict that climate change will result in more extreme weather events—including high precipitation in some areas and drought in others. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains:

“Climate change could make it too hot to grow certain crops, and droughts caused by climate change could reduce the amount of water available for irrigation. Climate change is also likely to cause stronger storms and more floods, which can damage crops. Higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns could help some kinds of weeds and pests to spread to new areas. If the global temperature rises an additional 3.6°F, U.S. corn production is expected to decrease by 10 to 30 percent.”

In addition, a new study found that climate change is affecting bumble bees by shrinking the area where they can live. Many bee species (especially honey bees and bumble bees) are responsible for pollinating many of the foods that we eat regularly and love. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, without the bees we will not have a number of crops, including "[a]pples, cucumbers, broccoli, onions, pumpkins, carrots, avocados, almonds... and it goes on."

Currently, California is experiencing a drought, and while there isn’t a consensus on whether the lack of rain reaching the state was caused by climate change, scientists believe rising temperatures associated with climate change have worsened it.

“The drought is made of two components: not enough rain and too much heat,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton, told the New York Times. “The rain deficit isn’t clearly connected to climate change, but the planetary warming has made it more likely that the weather would be hotter in California.”

Though consumers have largely been protected from rising prices due to California’s drought, that could soon change for some foods such as avocado, almonds, artichokes, and other produce items, Penn State Professor James Dunn, Ph.D., who studies agricultural economics, told International Business Times. Eventually, the drought could have a “big impact” on consumers’ grocery bills.

“California is basically all over your market basket,” Dunn told IBT. “It’s important in almost any commodity,” he continued.

2. Water

Water, arguably our most precious resource, will be at risk due to climate change. The Union of Concerned Scientists points out: “Humans use water for everything from drinking and bathing to growing crops, supporting livestock and fish farms, shipping goods, generating electricity, and simply relaxing and having fun.”

It is predicted that climate change will cause major changes in precipitation—some areas will see a lot, others may see drought. Though, as mentioned before, scientists cannot yet connect the initial drought in California to climate change—though hotter temperatures are aggravating it—California’s drought gives an example of water scarcity and what that does to a population. Residents are asked to reduce water consumption, and in some areas water bills are going up. The drought is creating more dry vegetation and a higher risk for wildfires. And of course it is impacting farming, as less water for irrigation and agriculture impacts farming and food production.

"Loss of mountain snowpack reduces the amount of water available for irrigation downstream, while earlier spring snowmelt affects the timing," the Union of Concerned Scientists explains. "Saltwater intrusion may contaminate the supply from groundwater."

The lack of snowpack, or the intrusion of saltwater does not only impact agriculture, it affects fresh drinking water. The Union of Concerned Scientists predicts that drinkable water will decrease in quality and in quantity: increased rainfall in some areas could cause sewage to overflow and contaminate water.

"Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and increasing droughts will affect the amount of water in lakes, rivers, and streams, as well as the amount of water that seeps into the ground to replenish ground water," the EPA explains.

3. Infrastructure

Climate change is likely to increase the number and severity of large weather events. If you have experienced the destruction of a hurricane such as Superstorm Sandy, or Hurricane Katrina, you have an idea of what destructive weather events can do to a city's infrastructure. Transportation, power sources, water sources, roads, bridges, sidewalks, prisons, and highways are all affected by major weather events. Not only does this cost cities, states and the federal government in both time and money to restore these services, but it also negatively impact residents, complicates emergency responses, disrupts overall productivity, and the likelihood of a repeat event that can cause residents to leave an area (as we saw after Katrina) and often not return. And it certainly does not help that we already have crumbling infrastructure challenges facing the U.S., as roads, bridges and railways collapse.

4. Energy sources

Certain ways that we currently produce energy—coal, fossil fuels—add greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, which only increases global warming. The truth is that climate change will also have an adverse affect on the way that we produce energy. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a report titled U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather.

"Increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, more intense storm events, and sea level rise will each independently, and in some cases in combination, affect the ability of the United States to produce and transmit electricity from fossil, nuclear, and existing and emerging renewable energy sources," the report reads. "These changes are also projected to affect the nation’s demand for energy and its ability to access, produce, and distribute oil and natural gas (ORNL 2012a, USGCRP 2009). An assessment of impacts—both positive and negative—is necessary to inform forward-looking efforts to enhance energy security."

Lack of rainfall and/or water shortage could affect many different types of energy production, from coal, to nuclear, to natural gas that all have high water use. Naturally, drought also impacts hydroelectric power, the EPA points out.

Also, drought and rising temperatures could cause more people to consume more energy, and particularly, air conditioning use. "Air conditioning costs will rise due to increasing temperatures and heat waves, along with the risks of blackouts and brownouts in regions throughout the country," the DOE explains.

Rising sea levels, and a potential increase in weather events also threaten power plants and energy infrastructure. "Power lines, transformers and electricity distribution systems face increasing risks of physical damage from the hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more frequent and intense," a 2013 article from the DOE explains.

5. Natural wonders

It goes without saying that climate change will greatly impact aspects of the natural world that we take for granted. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, due to climate change and human activity, we are beginning to lose coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, as tropical islands are losing their ability to protect themselves against weather events and face erosion and salinization of drinking water resources.

We are also losing many other wonders of the world, including the Amazon rainforest, the Everglades, the Dead Sea, Mount Everest, and others.

Potential wildfires—which will increase as a result of drought—have the potential to destroy forest habitats (along with adding more pollution to the air).

If you live in a town that relies on beach tourism, visitors to a nearby national park, or other activities, then you will be impacted. Anyone whose property value relies on location—the balmy weather, the ocean view, the secluded forest—will also be affected.

6. Weather

As ATTN: has explained before, climate and weather are two different phenomena. "Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere 'behaves' over relatively long periods of time," NASA states. Though it's important not to conflate the two (for example trying to use a snowball to state that climate change isn't happening) climate change is predicted to have an effect on weather—by making it more extreme.

"Rising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency explains on its website. "Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change."

How will this impact you? You could live in a state where an increase in storms means the heightened need to purchase a particular type of insurance to protect against potential damage—flood or fire, for example.

"Sea-level rise, floods, droughts, wildfires, and extreme storms require extensive repair of essential infrastructure such as homes, roads, bridges, railroad tracks, airport runways, power lines, dams, levees, and seawalls," the Union of Concerned Scientists explains.

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