The Common Good
May 2013

The Gathering Storm

by Janelle Tupper | May 2013

Climate change leads to far more consequences than just destructive weather patterns.

Climate scientists have warned that climate change will bring about—and already is bringing about—more frequent and fiercer storms. But climate change leads to far more than just destructive weather patterns, with consequences in almost all aspects of our lives. Here are just a few of the many possible effects of our rising global temperature.

Natural disasters will increase.
Climate change increases the risk of natural disasters that disproportionately affect low-income people who lack the resources to prepare, recover, or relocate.

Food will be scarcer and more expensive.
Food prices increase as farmers face new levels of unpredictability in weather patterns. Drought and floods may cause widespread soil infertility and increased plant diseases.

We'll experience more drought—and floods.
Changes in weather patterns lead to both increased drought and flooding, because warmer air can hold more water. Many dry places will become drier, while others will be inundated with rain.

We'll get sicker.
Warmer temperatures broaden the geographic range of insects that carry deadly diseases such as malaria, affecting more people. Warm air holds pollution closer to the ground, increasing respiratory illness. Diseases such as AIDS, which are linked to migration, poverty, and malnutrition, may also increase.

Human trafficking will increase.
With increased migration and job loss from agricultural instability, populations—and especially women—become increasingly vulnerable. As traditional sources of income evaporate, the incentive to exploit others becomes higher.

Some will have to flee their homes.
As land becomes uninhabitable due to agricultural and water instability, flooding, disease, or the effects of natural disasters, more people will be forced to leave their homes to seek opportunity elsewhere.

More people will be out of work.
Climate change could eliminate whole industries, such as commercial fishing and ecological tourism, and adverse conditions could destroy jobs in agriculture and industry.

The plant and animal world will become less diverse.
Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns have already affected the habitat and range of many species, and ocean acidification due to increased carbon pollution leads to coral reef loss and other adverse outcomes.

Budget deficits will increase.
Climate change will increase costs in many areas, from infrastructure to healthcare, from unemployment and food assistance to disaster response—accompanied by lowered economic productivity.

Energy supplies will drop, and prices will rise.
Water shortages will leave hydroelectric dams under-powered, and natural disasters affect power plants and reduce the capacity to respond—while rising temperatures increase demand for uses such as air conditioning.

The gap between rich and poor will get worse.
The effects of climate change fall disproportionately on the people that have done the least to cause it and have the fewest resources to cope with disruptions—the poor. Social disintegration caused by climate change will widen existing gaps both globally and locally.

International conflicts and wars will multiply.
Decreased food security and water access may lead to resource conflict as people struggle to survive. Some countries may become uninhabitable, while other previously uninhabitable lands may become desirable and fought over. Increased migration also leads to international tension.

... Unless we act.

While many of these effects are already happening, the worst-case scenario isn't at all inevitable. We have the power to end our reliance on fossil fuels and chart a new path toward a sustainable future. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof"—let's treat it that way!

Janelle Tupper is campaigns assistant for Sojourners.

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