climate change will affect YOU
In the next 25 years, climate change will change the world about as much as the internet has in the last 25. It will certainly affect you as a result.
As shown in “Effects of Climate Change on Humans and Society – it’s about PEOPLE!”, climate change will drastically affect the world and society as we know it. I strongly recommend you read that post first to get an idea of what society as a whole is up against in the coming decades to understand the big picture issues that directly or indirectly affect everyone.
In response to the threat of climate change, the world will be forced to decarbonize rapidly while also developing resilience strategies. This will completely transform society as we know it. You are a part of this interconnected society and depend on countless people, companies, natural resources, and of course a safe and habitable climate in your day to day life. As society transitions to handle the new challenges, you and your loved ones will have to adapt to the new reality as well.
In the following, I don’t include the effects that potential geopolitical tensions, conflict, or climate refugees could have on you. I also don’t spell out the possibility of being directly impacted by food or water shortages – which is already affecting millions. Nor do I include the increasing chances of directly experiencing extreme climate events (extreme weather events in the US causing $1 billion or more in damage have doubled since the 90’s and quadrupled since the 80’s). Each of these unbelievable events is increasingly likely as long as the Earth continues to warm. All of these potential impacts are excluded in this piece because I’ve talked about them previously, and because these are the kind of things that you wouldn’t believe could ever happen to you anyway, thanks to our hardwired optimism-biased brains.
Instead of focusing on these unbelievably disruptive impacts, I examine things that are more relatable to most people’s current life in high-income countries and explore how the trends of climate change will likely manifest themselves in various aspects of our everyday lives.
When it comes down to it we all want similar things in life. We want to be healthy, have strong, loving relationships with our family and friends, to be able to provide for the people we love, to keep them safe, to have fun, and ultimately to enjoy life. If you care about these things, it would be wise to understand how climate change will affect them – because it most certainly will if it hasn’t already.
Some of the following points are valid now and others are more future-oriented. Both are worth keeping in mind as time goes on.
Safety for you and your family
- Location: Are you living in a safe place? What is the risk of extreme storms, flooding, drought, heat waves, and wildfires where you live? All of these extreme events have the potential to be costly, traumatic, destructive, and even deadly. Parts of the world that are habitable today will not be in the future. When choosing where you and your loved ones physically live, the safety risks posed by climate change should not be ignored.
- Government: What is the stability of the society and government like? Are they prepared for extreme events? Are they being proactive by taking adaptive measures to address new risks posed by climate change?
We all need money to support ourselves and our loved ones. Companies and governments around the world are starting to adjust their assets, investments, and operations to deal with a world with climate change. They see the financial risks to their old way of doing things and are adjusting their behavior. Are you?
- Home: There is a financial risk to buying property in locations that are increasingly under threat due to climate change. One example of this would be coastal areas. The ocean is rising at an accelerating rate and it’s projected to impact millions of people living on the world’s coastlines. The ocean will rise higher in some places than others – like the east coast of the US. Not only does this increase the risk of more frequent and damaging storms and flooding, but it also raises the question: how much is a home worth that is in the line of fire of these floods and storms? The same goes for any other extreme climatic event factors for that matter, such as deadly heat waves, wildfires, and droughts. At some point, the real estate market will naturally adjust values to match the new risks and reality. Insurance coverage will be exorbitant or unavailable. Choose wisely!
- Career: In a world that needs to minimize GHG emissions ASAP, industries and companies that have business models that are antithetical to this new world are at great risk. They will become obsolete or change dramatically. On the flip side, there will be much more opportunity for businesses that help to reverse climate change and those that have sustainable operations. Companies that provide services regarding adaptation to climate change will flourish as well. There is always more job security and opportunity for advancement when you’re working in a growing industry.
- Investments: Big money is starting to incorporate sustainability into their investment strategies. Beware of investing in companies with business models that are misaligned with decarbonizing the world or are significantly less sustainable than their industry peers. Climate change can also impact the available supply and thus the price of natural resources, as well as the climatic conditions and stability of where products travel in the supply chain. These are inherent risk factors for many businesses and should be considered.
- You’ll be paying more:
- Taxes: Extreme weather events are becoming more and more costly. In 2017, the US set a record with over $300 billion in damages. More and more of your taxpayer dollars are going to relief efforts.
- Food: All these droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, and heatwaves are reducing crop yields, water availability, and even the nutrition of our food. Food shortages are expected to increase in the future, meaning prices go up for everybody.
- Price on carbon: This market-based solution is practically inevitable if we are to quickly reverse global warming. There are different ways it could be done – the best being where 100% of fees are returned to citizens to offset rising prices. The fact remains though, the more GHG emissions you are responsible for, the more money will come out of your pocket. Get ahead of the game and go green!
I’m sorry. I don’t want to be the one to break it to you, but there will be less of some of the awesome stuff we know and love…but perhaps knowing this we’ll begin appreciating it more? Plus, I’m sure the future will bring a lot of cool stuff to make up for it!
- Travel and Activities: With current trends, you won’t be able to travel to as many places in the world in the future. Some places will simply be uninhabitable. Others will be dangerous due to a lack of resources and potential for conflict. There will be fewer beautiful things to see such as coral reefs, glaciers, beaches, and possibly rainforests. Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding will be available in fewer places and for less time during the year. They’ll also be more expensive and probably more crowded.
- The good stuff: There will be less coffee, chocolate, beer, and wine. It will be more expensive and sometimes just different.
- Coffee: According to Australia’s Climate Institute, “hotter weather and changes in rainfall patterns are projected to cut the area suitable for coffee in half by 2050.” NPR interviewed farmers in Brazil, which produces the most coffee in the world – many are already moving out of the coffee business for good because crops are failing and they need a reliable source of income.
- Chocolate: “Climate change and unsustainable farming techniques have decreased the land used for cacao crops by 40% in the last four decades.” NOAA says the temperature is projected to rise 2.1℃ in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire by 2050, making it harder for cacao to grow. They produce 60% of the world’s chocolate.
- Beer and wine: Like these other plants, barley, hops, and grapes will have a harder time growing in the future as well. New varieties of crops will need to be used. Regions that are known for certain wines will eventually have to change. Drought is making yields increasingly difficult not only for growing the plants but also for making the beer. Breweries are forced to use groundwater rather than river water at times now due to water shortages. As a local Californian brewer put it, “it’s like brewing with Alka-Seltzer”.
Believe it or not, at some point we will likely judge ourselves or be judged by others based on our net contributions to climate change.
Before I go further, please know I don’t intend to guilt you or imply that you’re a bad person in any way. No, climate change was given to us – we’re living in a broken system. And I believe people are fundamentally good anyway. I just hope the following thought experiment provides you with a new lens through which to look at climate change if you haven’t looked at it this way already. Make of it what you will!
I would bet that many of us will, at some point, look back on our lives and judge ourselves based on what we knew when about climate change and how we acted on that information because of the moral implications. This is because you, by definition, are either part of the problem or you are part of the solution.
By polluting greenhouse gas emissions we harm other people and ourselves. That is a fact. By polluting GHGs unnecessarily or unconsciously, we are saying, through our actions, that we don’t care about the harmful effect of our actions on others both today and tomorrow.
If you personally don’t care that’s fine, but I can assure you that your kids or grandkids will care because they will have to deal with the climate we leave for them. They will be the ones harmed or disadvantaged the most by what we do now. They’ll learn about how the world used to be, how we altered the climate with fossil fuels, when we realized we were destroying it, and what was or wasn’t done once we knew.
What will you say when your child inevitably asks you, “If people knew about it, why didn’t they do anything to stop it?” and “Did you do anything about it?”
Do your actions align with your values? If they don’t there is cognitive dissonance. There’s a difference between who you want to be, or think of yourself as, and who you actually are. Removing this discrepancy aligns your values and actions. It makes you happier.
I am not one to impose or judge. I just would like everyone to have thought this through because I don’t think we fully realize what we’re doing yet. I think once people have looked at it this way, some may see it differently, which is why I say it. But, by all means, do what you want to do! You are a free person and get to make your own decisions!
Moral considerations aside, you have every reason to selfishly make climate change your number one big picture issue or at least start incorporating it into your decision making for your own sake because it will impact society and each one of us that much.
Read the final part of this series for a brief, high-level overview exploring why acting on climate change is in our best interest. Learn about my other articles on why your actions actually do make a difference when it comes to climate change and what steps you can take to help stop climate change and build a brighter future.
Climate Change: The 5 Things You Need to Know series:
- Climate Change is Happening NOW
- We Do Not Have Climate Change Under Control. A Sense of Urgency is Needed!
- Climate Change is the Biggest Threat Humanity Faces Today. It Unquestionably Affects PEOPLE.
- Climate Change Will Affect YOU
- We are the Cause, and Therefore, We Must be the Solution to Climate Change
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