The Impacts of Climate Change - Chapter 2: Impacts of climate change on economies, ecosystems, energy, environments, and human equity: A systems perspective

Elsevier, The Impacts of Climate Change, A Comprehensive Study of Physical, Biophysical, Social, and Political Issues, 2021, Pages 19-50
Daniel P. Loucks

The substantial and continuing increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the use of primarily fossil fuels to meet increasing energy demands have made the Earth’s climate increasingly hotter. It is also wetter where it is wetter and drier where it is drier. The weather is more extreme. The adverse impacts and consequences of this extreme weather on our economies, ecosystems, environment, and even energy sectors are increasingly evident. The magnitude of each impact differs in particular regions—but together, the temporal range and spatial extent of these extremes makes climate change one of the most urgent and long-term issues facing the world’s populations today. Global warming is adversely impacting the health and economic and social well-being of people, communities, and nations, worldwide. The most vulnerable—those with fewest resources and options available to respond—are being the most impacted. This chapter attempts to identify the interdependencies among the major economic, ecological, environmental, and energy sector impacts, and associated social equity issues, resulting from today’s changing climate. These impacts include more frequent and intense storms, wildfires, and heat waves; air, soil, and water pollution; crop failures; shifts in ecosystem habitats; freshwater shortages; worsening smog; health risks to humans, animals and plants; melting ice sheets, glaciers, and permafrost; rising sea levels and damage to coastal communities and infrastructure in virtually every sea-bordering country in the world and possibly permanently flooding entire island nations. These are only a few of the consequences of global warming that are among others reviewed in this chapter. As the direct and damaging impacts of climate change on food supplies, human health, commerce, industries, and ecosystem services become more severe, and as conflicts over increasingly scarce resources worsen, political and social tensions increase. Regions become less livable. People leave. These migrations significantly increase risks of conflicts. The economic, social, and political costs resulting from our increasing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere clearly outweigh those costs of decreasing them.