Special Report

26 Climate Crisis Disasters That Will Get Worse If We Do Nothing

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In September, the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released, highlighting the importance of acting to lower global climate emissions and keep global temperature to below 1.5 C above preindustrial levels. Today, average temperatures have already risen by about 1.0 C.

The report notes that even if the global community immediately and drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions, the locked-in long-term effects of climate change will be dire. For example, the IPCC predicts that “extreme sea level events,” which once only occurred every 100 years, will become annual events by 2050.

Depending on whether global temperatures increase by 1.5 C and 2.0 C the difference in outcomes could be extreme, according to the IPCC. The half degree difference could result in more ice loss, sea level rise, species extinction, and severe changes in weather. Here are 20 places where weather is getting worse because of climate change.

Climate scientists agree that global carbon emissions largely impact climate change. They project different scenarios depending on the amount and rate at which emissions will fall, remain the same, or increase.

The “business-as-usual” scenario, referred to as RCP8.5, considers no change in the world’s greenhouse gases emissions. Under this scenario, some climate scientists estimate that temperatures would rise by over 4.0 C over preindustrial levels by the end of the century. Some anticipate even higher temperature increases. The consequences of such an increase would likely be disastrous to humanity.

Click here to see 26 disaster scenarios caused by climate change.

24/7 Wall St. consulted reports by groups such as the IPCC, NASA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and more to identify the potential effects of global climate change on the Earth and its inhabitants. Many of these predictions are based on average global temperature increases of at least 4 C above preindustrial levels by 2100. Even if we manage to avoid the worst-case scenarios, many serious consequences of climate change are already being seen and felt around the world. Here are 27 effects of climate change that can’t be stopped.

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1. Rising temperatures

Global average temperatures could rise by as much as 7 C, or 12.6 F, by 2100. So far the average has risen by about 1 C.


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2. Even higher regional temperature increases

Regional temperatures could increase much more than the global average in places like North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. Summer temperatures could increase by 9 C, or about 16 F, in some places.

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3. Rising heat in the US

Even in the United States, where temperatures are expected to rise less than the global projected increase, average temperatures could rise by as much as 12 F by the end of the 21st century.

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4. A rise in hurricane and storm activity

While the jury is still out on whether global warming has significantly contributed to an increase in the frequency and strength of hurricanes affecting the United States, scientists project global warming is likely to cause a substantial increase in the severity of these events in the future.


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5. Drastic changes in weather patterns

Strong El Nino events and erratic monsoon seasons will severely affect access to water and increase water insecurity in Asia and other parts of the Pacific.

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6. Reduced regional precipitation

Some scientists predict as much as a 10% decline in precipitation in the subtropics for each 1 C (1.8 F) of global warming.


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7. Arctic-free summers

If the Earth warms by 2 C above preindustrial levels (we are now 1 C warmer), scientists predict that one out of 10 summers in the Arctic will be ice free. Warming in excess of 4 C will likely further eliminate Arctic ice.

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8. Greenland ice sheet could completely melt

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting much faster than previously thought, and further temperature increases could cause the massive ice sheet to completely melt within a few hundred years.

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9. Sea level rise

Warming of 4 C will lead to a sea level rise of between 6.9 and 10.8 meters, or between 22.6 and 35.4 feet.


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10. Long-term major sea level rise

In the longer-term, sea levels could rise by as much as 50 feet. In addition to the significant and inevitable changes to the climate and virtually all of the Earth’s biomes, sea level rise necessarily means less livable land area for humans.

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11. Global inundation

The eventual melting of both polar ice caps, which scientists predict is inevitable at the current rate of warming, would in the long-term result in a sea level rise of more than 120 feet. The loss of the Greenland ice sheet would cause an even greater rise.


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12. Flooding of coastal communities

An estimated 145 million people live at altitudes within 3 feet of sea level. Even with a more conservative sea level rise estimate of 3 feet, these people will all be displaced by the end of the century, including in places like the Netherlands, the United States, South Asia, and China.

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13. Florida under water

More than 1 million Florida homes are at risk of flooding by 2100, and many major coastal cities will be at least partially under water.

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14. Bangladesh flooded

A 3-foot sea level rise would flood 20% of the landmass of Bangladesh, displacing an estimated 30 million people.


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15. Widespread drought

By one estimate, available drinkable surface water per person will have fallen from 6,880 cubic yards in 1951 to 1,046 cubic yards by 2025.

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16. Severe water scarcity

Several billion people will experience water scarcity by the end of the century. According to one estimate, there could be a 40% gap between global water demand and reliable water supply already by 2030.


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17. Severe drought in India and Pakistan

India’s national water supply is forecast to drop to half of demand as soon as 2030, and Pakistan will face severe water scarcity by 2025.

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18. Increase in vector-borne diseases

Changes in temperature, precipitation rates, and humidity are expected to increase the incidence of diseases like malaria and dengue fever.

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19. Extreme political instability

Changes in available food and water resources, mass migrations, and other issues could result in widespread instability in regional governments as well as severe armed conflicts.


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20. Nuclear war

Resource shortages and displaced populations, which are escalated by the climate emergency, are triggers of conflict. Scientists have not ruled out such worse-case scenarios as the possibility of nuclear war.

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21. Widespread forced migration

Rising seas and regional conflicts could lead to large migrations, resulting in homelessness and deteriorating health among the refugees, and to resources stretched thin in nations supporting them.


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22. Starvation and food riots

Scientists predict widespread regional declines in crop yields, particularly in fertile river deltas such as the Nile, due primarily to rising sea levels. The result will be widespread food scarcity, which could contribute to regional instability.

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23. Major increase in wildfires

Wildfires in the United States have already rapidly increased in frequency and severity in recent years. Due in part to worsening drought conditions, those fires will only get worse in the coming years.

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24. Mass extinction

One in every six species on Earth could become extinct, with even higher regional rates. For example, one in four species in South America are at risk of dying out.


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25. Coral reefs completely vanish

With average temperature warming to just 2.0 C above preindustrial levels, scientists predict that over 90% of the world’s coral reefs, and the delicate ecosystems they support, would be lost. With warming over 4.0 C, coral reefs would likely vanish entirely.

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26. Mass human depopulation

All of these conditions, in combination, could result in widespread human death. Kevin Anderson, director at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, predicts that only half a billion humans would survive increases in average temperature of 5 C-6 C.

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