You’ve heard about the long-term, large-scale changes predicted by scientists. But climate change is already pervading our daily lives. Here’s a list of ways it’s too close for comfort.
9 ways global warming is affecting daily life
Beer's top 3 ingredients are suffering
Climate change is threatening three key ingredients needed to make beer: Water, barley and hops.
- Some breweries are encountering shortages of clean water for brewing; the drought in California already has breweries scrambling for water.
- In recent years, barley crops have been damaged by heavy rains in Australia and by drought in England.
- Hops are also plagued by drought. In Germany, hops production was down nearly 26% in 2014, according to NOAA. In the United States, hops prices have doubled in just ten years, due in part to Northwestern drought. These two countries account for two-thirds of the world’s hops production.
The threats to beer have prompted an industry-wide “climate declaration” — breweries have pledged to reduce their own environmental impact, and are urging broad, concerted action against climate change.1
Zika alert: Hungrier, infected insects
Given that the Zika outbreak has hit hardest in regions that are hotter than usual, scientists are concerned that climate change may bring even more outbreaks of such mosquito-borne diseases.
- Insects flourish in warm climates.
- Female mosquitoes feed more frequently in higher temperatures.
- Viruses incubate faster in warmth.
Global warming is also suspected in malaria outbreaks across the highlands of eastern Africa, as well as the spread of dengue. It may also account for the rising incidence of Lyme disease in North America.
Syrian drought: Pushing the region toward war?
U.S. military leaders are drawing connections between extreme weather conditions and security issues around the world. And in many cases, those conditions are linked to climate change.
The eastern Mediterranean is having its worst drought in 900 years. In Syria, water shortages and famine have forced as many as 1.5 million people out of rural areas and into cities.
That disruptive migration gave rise to street protests in 2011, which were met with harsh military action—and the ensuing war.
Grocery prices spike
A U.N. panel in March 2016 found that climate change is affecting global agricultural supply. According to the IPCC, extreme weather events were followed by rapid increases in prices of food and cereal from 2007 to 2014.
On a global level, when the staples of everyday life suddenly become unaffordable, the devastating impact can include widespread civil unrest. Experts predict that climate change will lead to lower yields of maize and wheat, seriously disrupting the food supply of Africa and Central America.2
Storm losses leave homeowners uninsured
Faced with a spate of devastating losses due to severe storms, insurers have been drastically curtailing their underwriting of homeowner policies.
Journal of Insurance Regulation noted the extent of the shift: Almost 3 million U.S. households lost coverage between 2003 and mid-2007, and only half were able to find new coverage.
In 2008, Farmers Insurance stopped writing and renewing homeowners policies in North Carolina. That same year, State Farm—Florida’s largest insurer—stopped writing new policies in the state. It pulled out completely in 2009, dropping 1.2 million customers. Other insurance companies have raised their premiums dramatically, effectively denying coverage to millions of homeowners. 3
Iconic Western forests decimated
It’s tragically easy to stand on many mountain peaks in Colorado and see nothing but dead trees—for miles in every direction.
The devastation results from warming winters that have allowed bark beetles to survive, when normal temperatures would have killed them. The beetles have swept through and destroyed an area of pine forests roughly the size of the State of Washington.
And it gets worse: University of Colorado researchers have found that some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year instead of the usual one. That population explosion will doom an ever-greater area of lodge pole and ponderosa pine in coming years.
Coral reefs dying; oceans acidifying rapidly
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the size of 70 million soccer fields. Which makes it all the more distressing that in 2016, 93% of the Great Barrier Reef was hit by the worst coral bleaching ever witnessed. Now half the reef is dead or dying, because corals feed on the now-gone algae that also provided them with their color.
Greenhouse gas pollution is also causing the oceans to acidify faster than they have in the last 300 million years. Researchers have found that over the past six years, the Florida Keys reef has lost six million tons of limestone from acidic waters eating away at the corals. That’s 12 pounds lost per square yard.4
Lakes disappearing, drinking water supply at risk
You may have seen photos of dry lakebeds in the Western U.S., and that’s just one indication of a widespread problem.
One-third of the world’s major lakes and rivers are drying up, affecting groundwater wells for 3 billion people, according to the World Preservation Foundation.
Here’s a sampling: Bolivia’s second-largest lake has all but dried up due to drought; Iran’s largest lake has all but disappeared; and Lake Chad, Africa’s largest, has shrunk 80% in 30 years.
Coffee production at risk
Most coffee comes from the Arabica coffee tree, which thrives on cool mountain slopes. As climate change has raised temperatures in coffee-growing regions, coffee growers have had to go farther up mountains to find cool air.
That’s a short-term fix at best, as the numbers show: Between 2002 and 2011, Indian coffee production fell almost 30%. Costa Rica and Ethiopia, two other top producers, also saw steep declines. The CEO of one coffee company predicts a 50% drop in the land available for Arabica cultivation by 2050, because of climate change.6 7
So what can we do about this?