If you’re at least a bit tuned in with the world around you, you know climate change is real (cough, cough Donald Trump). Global warming is not an effective term anymore because many people look around the U.S. right now and say, “Hey! Global warming isn’t real – just look at Winter Storm Jonas!” Wrong. The real reason for more precipitation is because as the temperature of the Earth increases, so does the cycle of evaporation. More moisture in the atmosphere leads to more snowfall and rainfall hence, Winter Storm Jonas. The Earth technically is warming, but many people discount this when they see giant snow storms or massive monsoons roll through. I’m in support of using the term “climate change” to justify all unnatural environmental shifts.
But I’m not here to talk to the naysayers of climate change. I’m here to talk to people that do believe in climate change – so enough with the technicalities and terminology. I implore you to reconsider why you think climate change is a “big deal.” We often consider the livelihood of the Earth in 10, 15, 30, 50 years in terms of extreme weather and rising sea levels. While these concerns are valid, just, and widely-researched, they aren’t the only reasons why we should care about climate change. I’m going to present a few more consequences of climate change, many that are affecting humans today.
Mosquitoes. Ah yes, the familiar face of Summer – red welts behind your knees and on your arms. Let’s be real, no one likes mosquitos. No one. While mosquitoes are an important aspect of a larger food web and ecology, they also bite and can carry deadly diseases such as Malaria, Dengue Fever, and West Nile Virus. In 2013 alone, nearly 500,000 people died of Malaria. Unfortunately, if climate change persists, our mosquito problem could only get worse. In September 2015, National Geographic’s Craig Welch published an article titled, “Why the Arctic’s Big Mosquito Problem Is Getting a Lot Worse.” A scary enough title in and of itself, it sparked my interest into some of the unconsidered consequences of climate change. As historically icy areas increasingly thaw, this creates new grounds for mosquitoes. Not only are the large numbers of mosquitoes attacking humans (ew.) but they’re also harming precious species such as reindeer. As the world heats up, mosquito season lasts longer and stretches further. Human and animal health, livelihood, and survival are threatened by the growth of this insect population due to climate change. Oh, and mosquitoes aren’t the only example of bugs that are flourishing under warmer, wetter climates – don’t forget about ticks (Lyme disease!).
Indigenous communities. People who have been calling islands or icy glaciers their home for hundreds of years, are now threatened by the effects of climate change. As the permafrost melts (bad!! very bad!!), Alaskan natives are finding their ancestral homelands threatened by rising sea levels. Knowing your children will have to move their hometown is a traumatic realization. Many who call beautiful island nations their home, such as the Marshall Islands, are also feeling the wrath of climate change. This island country, and others (Kiribati and the Maldives) are soon to disappear, and its our fault. The Marshall Islands’ population hovers around 71,000, and that’s about to be 71,000 people forcibly displaced by the consequences of climate change. If the climate rises 2 degrees Celsius, it is goodbye to many island nations and coastal cities. People should not lose their homeland to a selfish act of human growth and expansion that has lead us to climate change. A Ugandan woman, after her home was washed away by floods, asked if this act “was God.” She learned the heartbreaking reality and said, “I learned it was not God, it was climate change.”
Girls. Climate change and . . . girls? Yes. Many lives are being reshaped by the consequences of climate change, but girls may be being hit the hardest. As resources necessary for home life are found further and further away, such as water and firewood, girls have to travel long distances to find them. Not only does that put them at risk for being out of school more (and we all know this is not good – for anything), but it also puts them in harms way. As girls travel further away from home, they are subject to dangerous areas that may lead to violence and sexual exploitation. As the climate shifts, it leads to larger natural disasters that often separate families and single out girls. In a broken area, affected by typhoons or hurricanes, girls and women can find themselves alone and vulnerable to sex trafficking and abuse. Lastly, as family’s properties are wiped away by erosion, floods, and other disasters, they lose their means of livelihood. They could lose animals, crops, and other means of production. This often results in an unforeseen economic burden on the family, and they may choose to turn to unfortunate means to make money, such as marrying their daughters off at a young age. Sexual exploitation and child marriage of girls are disheartening, unconsidered effects of climate change.
Mosquitoes and the rise of diseases, indigenous communities losing their homes, and girls’ safety are all unconsidered consequences of climate change. While there a probably a dozen more I could list, these were the three that hit me the hardest. It’s easy to think about climate change as this far off concept that could make our climate a little bit warmer. Climate change hits a little closer to home when you start conceptualizing how it is affecting people’s everyday lives. Next time you hear about climate change in broad, sweeping terms, think about the consequences many others don’t take the time to consider.
Oh, and to all you naysayers, check out what would happen to Trump’s buildings if sea levels continued to rise.
Photograph by Lizzy LeBleu – featuring my friend Sammy and I off the coast of Portobelo, Panama.