Severe weather events are wracking the planet, and experts warn of even greater consequences to come.
The rate of ice loss in two of Greenland’s largest glaciers has increased so much in the last 10 years that the amount of melted water would be enough to completely fill Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in North America.
West Texas is currently undergoing its worst drought since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, leaving wheat and cotton crops in the state in an extremely dire situation due to lack of soil moisture, as wildfires continue to burn.
Central China recently experienced its worst drought in more than 50 years. Regional authorities have declared more than 1,300 lakes “dead”, meaning they are out of use for both irrigation and drinking water supply.
Floods have struck Eastern and Southern China, killing at least 52 and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands, followed by severe flooding that again hit Eastern China, displacing or otherwise affecting five million people.
Meanwhile in Europe, crops in the northwest are suffering the driest weather in decades.
Scientific research confirms that, so far, humankind has raised the Earth’s temperature, and the aforementioned events are a sign of what is to come.
“If you had a satellite view of the planet in the summer, there is about 40 per cent less ice in the Arctic than when Apollo 8 [in 1968] first sent back those photos [of Earth],” Bill McKibben, world renowned environmentalist and fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences told Al Jazeera, “Oceans are 30 per cent more acidic than they were 40 years ago. The atmosphere is four per cent more wet than 40 years ago because warm air holds more water than cold air. That means more deluge and downpour in wet areas and more dryness in dry areas. So we’re seeing more destructive mega floods and storms, increasing thunderstorms, and increasing lightning strikes.”
So far human greenhouse gas emissions have raised the temperature of the planet by one degree Celsius.
“Climatologists tell us unless we get off gas, coal, and oil, that number will be four to five degrees before the end of this century,” said McKibben, “If one degree is enough to melt the Arctic, we’d be best not to hit four degrees.”
Climate change is bad for you
Brian Schwartz is a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“Increasing temperatures cause direct health effects related to heat; there will be more common events like the 30,000 to 50,000 persons who died in Europe in 2003 due to the heat wave there,” Professor Schwartz told Al Jazeera, “Increasing temperatures also cause more air pollution, due to photochemical reactions that increase with higher temperatures. This will cause more morbidity and mortality from pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.”
Schwartz, who is also the co-director of the Programme on Global Sustainability and Health, said that lack of clean water, a phenomenon that is also a product of climate change, will lead to increases in morbidity and mortality from a variety of water-borne diseases.