These days, we hear all sorts of panicky clamoring about “climate change” this and “global warming” that, or “impending crisis of unimaginable proportions” and so on and so forth. Why are people so up in arms about global warming? Well, largely because human activity is wreaking savage and largely irreversible damage on our only planet in ways that we — or at least many of us — have yet to fully comprehend (or even to allow as a possibility, in the case of a select set of people we shall call…idiots).
But take heart, you don’t have to spend your days worrying about all the dangers and damage that global warming might cause in the future: climate change has already affected or even outright ruined many places. That’s right, even today you can travel around the globe to see multiple spots that global warming has impacted in a myriad of dramatic ways.
Sure, New York, Miami, London, and dozens of other cities (and entire countries; looking at you, Micronesia and The Netherlands) will likely be underwater within the century, but let’s not worry about the future (none of the climate change deniers and few of the leading contributors are, right?) and instead spend some time talking about a few places already ruined by climate change.
15. Kiribati – Disappearing Nation
The tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati, population around 100,000, is one of the countries that will be hit hardest by climate change; much of its low-lying landmass will likely be submerged within a matter of decades. We can be rather safe in making that assumption because indeed several small islets that made up part of the nation have already slipped beneath the rising ocean. The portions of Kiribati that are not consumed by the waters will likely become uninhabitable just the same as an increase in soil salinity will in time render the land infertile and barren.
14. New Orleans – The Perfect Storm
2005’s Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,200 people living in and around New Orleans and caused more than $100 billion in damages. While it can’t be said that global warming caused the deadly storm — hurricanes have plagued the region since time immemorial — it can be said that climate change exacerbated the disaster. Scientists estimate that the elevated sea level, as caused by global warming, led to a storm surge that was as much as 60% larger than the city would have experienced a century earlier. So, just project things forward to another major storm a hundred years from now…
13. Bangladesh – Exodus Imminent
Bangladesh has never had an easy time of things; the nation, partitioned by the British in 1947 and declared independent in 1971, has been driven by war, famine, and flooding. It is this last ill that besets the long-suffering nation the most these days, and is likely to largely seal its fate in the future. In 1998, Bangladeshi floods inundated more than 60% of the country, displacing more than 30 million people. Bangladesh again saw devastating floods in the year 2005, and experts predict that within the near future, rising sea levels will cause even worse flooding that will lead to tens of millions of permanent climate change refugees.
12. Alaska – The Disappearing Coast
Shorter, milder winters and longer, warmer summers are having a deleterious effect on portions of the Alaskan coast that natives have called home for centuries. And the damage is coming in a two-pronged approach: first off, the sea level is rising everywhere, and that is of course encroaching on coastal communities. Second, the less time the coastal lands spend frozen and covered with ice, the more the shoreline is prone to erosion. Thus, many settlements along the coast of the Bering Sea are being forced to move inland or to outright dismantle. This pattern will play out all around the northern and southern stretches of the globe.
11. The Alps – Freshwater For Fewer
Snowpack levels in the Alps Mountains have been falling for years, which is no surprise given the fact that temperatures in these mountains — which straddle portions of France, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and other nations — have been rising for years. Over the past century, the average annual temperature has risen by two degrees Fahrenheit. Which, FYI, is significant, despite how modest a two-degree increase might sound. That elevated heat means less snow accumulation each year, and the snowmelt from the Alps accounts for as much as 40% of Europe’s supply of fresh water. And 40% is a lot.
10. Gansu, China – Drying Out
While climate change brings terrible flooding and storms to some regions, it creates the exact opposite effect in other places. Gansu, a province in the northern central area of China, is just such a place. The largely rural region has experienced ever more severe droughts in recent years, with thousands of acres of once arable land now becoming inhospitable for growing crops or grazing livestock. The country has committed to a massive anti-desertification project at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, but it is likely that much of Gansu is already past the point of reclamation.
9. Colombia – Deadly Mud
As of the time of this writing, it has only been a few weeks since hundreds of people were killed and thousands left homeless as a result of devastating mudslides that carried away portions of the town of Mocoa, which is tucked into the southwestern part of Colombia. Climate scientists agree that global warming caused the flooding that precipitated these deadly slides. Unusually heavy rains caused several rivers in the region to overflow their banks, in turn causing destruction below. These are hardly the last deadly mudslides the area will face as ever more severe weather patterns develop.
8. Ethiopia – Drought and Famine
Things have rarely been easy for people living in the Horn of Africa, the region that extends into the Arabian Sea off the eastern coast of the African continent. Now added to the endemic civil unrest and the infiltration of extremists and pirates, those who call the region home must also face ever worse threats of drought and food shortages as caused by climate change. Landlocked Ethiopia in particular is already experiencing longer and more severe periods of drought, with some five million people already in need of food relief and those numbers only likely to rise in the coming years.
7. Haiti – Drier and Wetter
Haiti has been ravaged by wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, and more. Now the nation, which occupies one half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (along with the Dominican Republic) is getting hammered by the effects of climate change, and likely will continue to be impacted by global warming on an annual basis. In a cruel irony, Haiti is seeing hotter, drier summers and wetter rainy seasons. That means more soil will be dried out and then washed away each year, which can ruin vast swaths of arable land and which can cause devastating and deadly mudslides.
6. Kilimanjaro – Snowy for Now
As Al Gore predicted in his landmark 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, soon enough the Ernest Hemingway story The Snows of Kilimanjaro will be a tale of a thing that was. The glacial snows that have crowned the top of this African peak for thousands of years are receding each and every year as the planet warms, and within a generation, it’s likely that there will be no permanent snow atop Kili. Once a glacier starts to break down, the process grows ever more rapid. And of course building glaciers up only occurs over many centuries.
5. The Philippines – Millions and Millions At Risk
The Philippines is composed many thousands of islands, and the population of the archipelago nation numbers almost 100 million. Many of the people living in the nation have already experienced rising coastlines pushing them inland, ever more powerful typhoons damaging their villages, towns, and cities, and torrential rains causing flooding during many years. It is the typhoons (that’s a hurricane in the Pacific, FYI) that are of the most concern to experts. Of the ten deadliest storms to hit the Philippines in the past half century, 50% of them have occurred in the past decade.
4. The Galapagos Islands – Isolated In Name Only
The Galapagos Islands are significant to us precisely because of how remote and removed they are; by being so distant from and unaffected by other parts of the globe, plants and animals evolved there in such unique ways that their distinct traits allowed naturalist Charles Darwin to formulate the very theory of evolution. Today, global warming has led to rising coastlines that are eroding parts of the islands as well as to coral bleaching that kills off many animals each year and threatens to eradicate entire species overt time. It is hard to believe that such a beautiful place like the Galapagos Islands is essentially deteriorating day by day. And the influx of tourists each year does very little to help with the delicate balance of the island’s ecosystem.
3. Venice – History Washing Away
Venice, Italy has been a celebrated city for hundreds of years. Its famous canals and the gondoliers who ply the waterways are an iconic part of Italian history and culture. However, this city, which sits right at the waterline, is at risk of becoming little more than a part of history as climate change continues apace, sending global sea levels rising much more. Already many old churches, homes, and other structures around Venice have been damaged by the encroaching water, and the entire city may be largely submerged within less than a century if things continue as they are. Essentially, as you are reading this article Venice is slowly, but surely, sinking.
2. Antarctica – Less Ice, More Ocean
Each and every year, the continent of Antarctica loses around 25 cubic miles of ice. That’s billions of tons of ice, for reference, in case 24 cubic miles doesn’t sound like much. And every time the southernmost continent loses part of its age-old ice sheet, the ocean “gains” that ice. Those gains come in the form of elevated sea levels over time, which means more encroachment of the water on coastal cities. Between the melting of ice in Antarctica, Greenland, and a few other majorly glaciated parts of the globe, we can expect the oceans to rise as much as six or more feet over the coming century.
1. The Arctic – Wide Open
The Arctic Ocean is experiencing shorter, warmer winters these days. That means less ice is forming and the ice that does form melts more quickly. Less ice is bad news for animals like the polar bear, which depend on frozen ice sheets for hunting, but is good news for companies (and countries) that wish to exploit newly opened areas of the Arctic for shipping and for oil and gas exploration. Of course, increased shipping and resource extraction will directly contribute to the very global warming that made said increase possible in the first place. It’s a bitter and savage cycle, people.
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