Consider this: The Mt. Kilimanjaro glacier, which has existed for the past 11,000 years, is now at risk of disappearing by 2020 if present rates of melting occur.1 A glacier that has been around for millennia might just disappear in our lifetime? You don’t need a degree in climate science to figure out that something big and unprecedented is happening, and happening fast.
But as we go about the business of life—working, getting the kids to school—melting polar ice caps and warming oceans can seem somewhat irrelevant to our everyday life. It’s time to connect the dots from those distant Arctic regions to our cities, towns, and backyards. Let’s contemplate what the future might look like if global warming continues unchecked.
The red line represents the Arctic sea ice boundary in 1979 in comparison to sea ice in 2005. More than 20% of the Polar Ice Cap has melted away since 1979. Source: NASA & Natural Resources Defense Council, courtesy of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
That charming beach house you love visiting every summer? It might be time to buy some more flood insurance—as sea level rises, it will cause more coastal flooding. Headed for the slopes for a weekend of skiing? Better check the snowfall levels. A recent report of the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment (NECIA) predicts that by late this century, the length of the winter snow season across the northern Northeast states could be cut in half. And be prepared for more steamy hot days: cities across the Northeast could average 20 days each year of temperatures over 100°F.2
It boils down to this: As global warming continues, it will cause more unnatural changes in climate that will eventually alter the very character of the places we love, our regional economies, and our quality of life. (You can read more about unnatural climate changes here.)
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“Scientists predict that continued global warming on the order of 2.5°-10.4°F over the next 100 years (as projected in the IPCC's Third Assessment Report) is likely to result in:
a rise in sea level between 3.5 and 34.6 in. (9-88 cm), leading to more coastal erosion, flooding during storms, and permanent inundation
severe stress on many forests, wetlands, alpine regions, and other natural ecosystems
greater threats to human health as mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects and rodents spread diseases over larger geographical regions
disruption of agriculture in some parts of the world due to increased temperature, water stress, and sea-level rise in low-lying areas such as Bangladesh or the Mississippi River delta.”3
You can learn more about the impacts of climate change on people and wildlife from the Nature Conservancy