The social impacts of climate change are manifold. These include disruptions to infrastructure that depend on water, food, shelter, or power; mental health impacts of increased natural disasters and extreme weather events; changes in the availability of land for habitation, industry, agriculture, and recreation; changing settlement patterns with populations forced to migrate due to coastal erosion or flooding in low-lying areas; political instability in regions affected by drought with the potential for mass migration.
The Social Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change is the accumulation of changes in the Earth’s average global surface temperature over time.
Climate change can also refer to global warming, which is one aspect of climate change, although global warming has other aspects as well.
Climate change has both natural and human causes. Natural causes include changes in solar energy, volcanic eruptions, sea-level rise, extreme weather events, coastal storms, and coastal erosion, climate refugees, social inequality, and more.
How Will We Be Affected?
The impacts of climate change won’t be evenly distributed. They’ll affect different people in different ways, depending on where they live.
And the poorest people in the world are likely to be hit the hardest.
We’re in the midst of a climate change that’s never happened before in human history, and that’s man’s fault. It seems to me that this fact makes the effects of climate change even more likely.
Adaptability is everybody’s business.
How We Know There Is Climate Change
The earth’s climate has always been changing. The temperature has always risen and fallen. Ice ages have come and gone. Species have come and gone. The climate has never stayed the same for very long, especially for us humans.
There are two main differences between today and the past. The first difference is speed. Climate change has happened before, but not like it’s now.
The second difference is that we humans were here before the recent changes. So we know what our world looks like when it’s colder or hotter, wetter or drier than usual, and we can compare it to today and see that it’s different today than at any time in recorded human history.
Environmental Impacts of Global Climate Change
The environmental impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world. We’re witnessing a shift in the global climate, and the consequences and costs of this shift will be profound.
It’s clear that the overall impact will be overwhelmingly negative.
Climate change may have impacts on Earth’s ecosystems. Melting Arctic sea ice will cause water temperatures in the Arctic to rise, which in turn will affect ocean currents and lead to unpredictable weather patterns (e.g., rising sea levels in coastal communities affected by climate impacts).
There are many factors that have contributed to climate change in the past.
One of them is deforestation. Trees help our planet in many ways, such as absorbing carbon dioxide from the air by breathing it in through their leaves, and then releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere when they exhale. When trees are cut down, less carbon dioxide is absorbed from the air.
This can have a big impact on global warming because even though only one percent of our planet’s atmosphere is carbon dioxide, it’s a big impact on the greenhouse effect. Another factor is pollution from industry, which can cause acid rain and reduce plant growth due to a lack of nutrients in the soil.
Scientists predict more floods and droughts; we’ll suffer more from extreme weather events like hurricanes; we’ll pay more for food and energy; we’ll face more health risks and impacts, and we’ll see major species extinctions.
There’s still time to avert the worst consequences. But not much time left. We must act now to solve this problem or risk serious and irreversible consequences for life on Earth as we know it.
The Social and Economic Impacts of Climate Change
The social and economic impacts of climate change are already here.
People in developing countries – especially small island states where indigenous peoples live – face the greatest challenges from climate change because they’re the least able to adapt to it.
Climate change also poses risks to economies and societies, such as major disruptions to food and water supplies or conflicts due to mass migrations.
Nations with large disparities in wealth will have a hard time working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Rich countries will do better if their citizens feel they’re paying for something that benefits everyone. But poor countries will need financial help to cope with increased flooding and extreme weather events.
A country’s policies on greenhouse gas emissions will be determined by its citizens’ beliefs about climate change.
If a country’s citizens believe that global warming is real and caused by human activity, they’re likely to vote for politicians who support the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. If citizens believe that climate change isn’t happening or is caused by natural trends, they’re likely to support laissez-faire policies on greenhouse gas emissions, even though these policies may be more expensive for their country in the long run.
Climate change is already impacting the social and economic systems on which our sustainable development depends.
Understanding the potential impacts of climate change is important for planning, both at the personal or household level and at the community or national level. The impacts of climate change may be slow, but they’ll be irreversible over human periods of generations.
How Climate Change Affects Our Lives
Climate change is a problem that affects every aspect of our lives. The longer we wait to solve it, the higher our costs will be.
Think about how climate change might affect your health. If you live in a place where the climate is changing, you can expect:
- More air pollution from fossil fuels and more heat waves (which worsen respiratory problems and heat strokes).
- More diseases (including Ebola, malaria, tuberculosis).
- More infections (especially waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid).
- More mental health problems due to the stress of experiencing disasters.
- More injuries from storms and other extreme weather events.
- Higher mortality rates from extreme weather events.
What Businesses Can Do to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change
Businesses can move their money faster than governments can move their troops; they’re more flexible, less bureaucratic, and less dependent on political agendas. And some companies have tremendous access to information and data. They know what’s happening in their supply chains better than anyone else, so they can anticipate challenges.
It would be difficult for a single company to solve the problem of climate change on its own.
But neither does any one company have to do it. Rather, many companies need to make many individual decisions that together make a significant difference.
There are also a growing number of social impact consultants helping companies build or improve their social impact and adaptation strategies.
The Costs and Opportunities Associated With Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The costs associated with reducing greenhouse gas emissions fall into two categories: the costs associated with taking action to reduce those emissions and the costs associated with adapting to unavoidable climate change.
The first category of climate adaptation includes investments in low-carbon technologies and in improving renewable energy efficiency and developing alternative energy sources.
The second category includes investments in infrastructure to protect people from extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods.
The IMF writes:
The scientific consensus is clear: Climate change is associated with increasingly frequent and intense natural disasters, from droughts and forest fires to hurricanes and coastal flooding. Although the exact extent of economic damage isn’t yet known, there are strong indications that it could be quite large. The challenge for policymakers is to decide how much to spend on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do that, they need to be able to compare the costs of different options, including renewable energy sources and electric cars.INETERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND
What Do You Need to Do as an Individual to Mitigate Climate Change
Whether you spend more time in urban areas or coastal regions, if you’re like most people, you don’t think much about climate change and climate damage.
But for the rest of your life, you’ll make choices that affect them.
Our decisions about climate change mitigation and adaptation can make things better or worse – but not much. If we could save the planet by switching to fluorescent lighting, no one would hesitate. And if we could save the planet by changing nothing at all, no one would hesitate either.
But most of us will act differently when we realize that even small actions can make a big difference.
Some say that becoming vegan would make a difference, others that cycling would be the best thing to do, but not everyone can dramatically change their lifestyle in this way. One of the easiest things you can do is simply reduce your energy consumption.
Others think they’re saving the world by buying locally grown produce instead of having vegetables delivered from hundreds of miles away.
Climate change is a problem that everyone needs to change. The first step to solving the problem is to recognize that these changes will vary from person to person and place to place.
First, your actions don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be better than nothing. Second, even small actions can have a big impact if many people do them together – that’s the only way society moves forward.
Finally, there are more things you can do than you might think.
Here are some tips from the United Nations on what you can do on an individual level.
And if you’re interested in contributing more, you can read about professions with social impact
I’m not a scientist, but I think it’s also important that we agree on what we’re sacrificing for. It’s clear to me that climate change is happening, that it’s largely the result of human activity, and that the world will be a less pleasant place to live if we don’t do something about it.