The Devastating Effects of Climate Change; What This Means for Our Earth


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Little boy playing with the bones of dead livestock in Australia, which has faced severe drought.

Trinity Cortes and Lauren Hancz

With an increase in carbon dioxide levels and rising sea levels, climate change is expected to become a bigger and bigger threat.

Due to large greenhouse gas emissions produced by humans, the threat of climate change is growing as newer, more negative effects emerge. The concentration of carbon dioxide ​​​​​​​in our atmosphere, as of 2018, is the highest it has been in 3 million years. Eleven percent of the world’s population is currently vulnerable to climate change impacts such as droughts, floods, heat waves, extreme weather events and sea-level rise.

According to the National Wildlife Foundation, average sea level is expected to rise 1 to 6 feet before the end of this century. With the rise of the average global temperature, approximately half of all plants and animals are at risk of extinction. This rapid change is largely due to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels, and the effects of climate change on the environment are already noticeable. Some of these changes include the shrinking of glaciers, ice on rivers and lakes breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges shifting, and trees flowering sooner. Effects that scientists had previously predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come.

One of the many issues that occur due to climate change is hurricanes. A paper published in Science magazine reported that the amount of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have increased over the past 30 years by about 80%. The paper related the rising sea surface temperature to the increasing number and intensity of hurricanes. The intensity of these storms are showcased by the hurricanes that hit the US and Indonesia in the last month, and the tornadoes that touched down in RI and on the Cape this past Tuesday. These are are two of many examples of the devastating impacts climate change has on the earth, and even though scientists are not certain about how climate change will affect the frequency of hurricanes, they are sure that the intensity of these storms will keep getting higher and higher.