Each year scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and each year we also gain new evidence of its devastating impact on people and the planet. As the heat waves, droughts, and floods associated with climate change become more frequent and more intense, communities suffer and death tolls rise. If we’re unable to reduce our emissions, scientists believe that climate change could lead to the deaths of more than 250,000 people around the globe every year and force 100 million people into poverty by 2030.
Global warming is already taking a toll on the United States. And if we aren’t able to get a handle on our emissions, here’s just a smattering of what we can look forward to:
Disappearing glaciers, early snowmelt, and severe droughts will cause more dramatic water shortages and continue to increase the risk of wildfires in the American West.
Rising sea levels will lead to even more coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida, and in other areas such as the Gulf of Mexico.
Forests, farms, and cities will face troublesome new pests, heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding. All of these can damage or destroy agriculture and fisheries.
Disruption of habitats such as coral reefs and alpine meadows could drive many plant and animal species to extinction.
Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks will become more common due to increased growth of pollen-producing ragweed, higher levels of air pollution, and the spread of conditions favorable to pathogens and mosquitoes.
Though everyone is affected by climate change, not everyone is affected equally. Indigenous people, people of color, and the economically marginalized are typically hit the hardest. Inequities built into our housing, health care, and labor systems make these communities more vulnerable to the worst impacts of climate change—even though these same communities have done the least to contribute to it.