Changing Climate, Changing Lives

Changing Climate, Changing Lives

Posted on 17 Feb 2023

“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are all crew”Marshall McLuhan

The weather we experience can change minute by minute. We can experience a rain downpour, shelter under a tree for a few seconds and later be feeling the sunshine on our faces. Climate is different - it can be viewed as the seemingly impossible to understand interdependence between diverse elements such as global weather patterns, atmospheric conditions, sea levels, natural geography, human intervention and social impact. There is however one single, simple benchmark for our climate that is used more than any other - temperature.  

Global temperatures rose by 1.1C from 1901 to 2020, mostly after 1975. This figure seems insignificant to our daily lives when thinking about our local weather conditions, however when viewed on a global scale, it can be seen as the driving force behind a multitude of changes we are already experiencing.

The changes we have previously discussed such as coral reef bleaching and the reduction in biodiversity levels may not seem to be relevant, however the complex nature of climate change can influence the way we live our lives on a daily basis.

Storms and Floods

Increasing global temperatures are accompanied by the increased likelihood of extreme weather events such as higher rainfall and localized flooding. In the UK, areas in Cumbria, Somerset and Yorkshire have experienced regular flooding events. 

The small village of Fairbourne in Wales is being permanently evacuated, or “decommissioned” due to the threat of sea level rises and storm surges. Residents learned of the fate of their beautiful village in a televised statement, which caused their properties to lose 40% of their value in a matter of hours. The prohibitive cost of building new sea defenses means that this village has an uncertain future. Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation, other towns and villages along the Welsh coast, such as Birth are facing regular storm surges that change their streets into rivers. Residents describe the process as being gradual and ‘insidious’, and have prompted local school children and families to travel to London to protest and raise awareness with national authorities. 

The 2016 storms that damaged the power supply to over 30,000 homes in South Africa was linked to the global changes to climate. The summer storms brought lightning strikes, damaged power cables and brought floods to areas that would normally have experienced only dry and calm weather conditions at that time of year.

With a higher likelihood of global storms comes higher insurance costs. Global property insurance costs are estimated to rise by 22% by 2040. To help mitigate against unforeseen extremes, OpenWeather supply the convenient and feature-rich Global Weather Alerts that can be used to send push notifications of custom weather alerts for any global location.  

Global Food Prices

A study by the International Panel for Climate Change has highlighted the risk that industries such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture are beginning to struggle to meet demands due to climate change. Crop yields are being threatened by deteriorating surface ozone caused by greenhouse gas emissions, increasing temperatures, and warmer, drier conditions. This in turn has the effect of increasing global food prices that affects the prices of the foods we regularly add to our shopping baskets. 

In addition to the direct effects of climate change on food prices, the diversion of food producing land to create biofuel has also put an upward pressure on the cost of food worldwide. In the US alone, 107 million tonnes of grain was grown to be blended with fuel. The growing demand for grain-based ethanol, and the increasing number of ethanol plants has repurposed high-yield food producing land to be dedicated to fueling transportation. This is despite the questionable benefit to the environment from biofuel when compared with fossil fuels - although they have lower CO2 impact, they reduce the biodiversity essential for sustainable agriculture.

Food Nutrition

 Climate change is also affecting the nutritional value of the food that we eat. According to researchers at Harvard, by the middle of the century about 175 million more people could develop a zinc deficiency and 122 million people could become protein deficient as a result of these changes to plant physiology. This is because the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing the speed at which crops grow, this in turn has the effect of increasing the sugar content of the crops, and reducing the levels of calcium, protein, zinc, and important vitamins.

Political Unrest and Migration

It is well known that political unrest is often linked to the cost and availability of food. In the eighteenth century, failed crops caused by drought led to bread riots that sparked the French Revolution. In modern times the combination of conflict, drought and climate change has caused an estimated 4.8million people to flee Syria, impacting the social and political environment in other countries such as Germany and Sweden.

As part of a 2013 study into the effects of climate change on human conflict, it was found that a change of global temperature of one standard deviation was associated with a 2.3% increase in interpersonal conflict rates and a 13.2% increase in the rate of intergroup conflict. By 2050, temperatures are expected to rise by two standard deviations in most places across the globe and by as much as four standard deviations in some places. Even though these changes are relatively small, the historical precedent of the social and political impact of small climate changes can be seen as far back as the 10th century, with the decline of the Tang dynasty in China.

Environmental Awareness

The rapid and human-induced changes to our environment has prompted an increase in donations and philanthropic donations to environmental issues. Pumalin Park in southern Chile was gifted to the Chilean state by the late Douglas Tompkins, philanthropist and co-founder of a sports clothing brand, who bought up huge areas of Patagonia. 

Young people have become aware of the changes the planet is undergoing, with many deciding to dedicate their time and energy to environmental issues. Discussions over global warming are encompassing wider environmental issues.  

Different areas affected differently

Globally, different areas are affected in different ways by climate change. In Afghanistan, average temperatures increased by 1.8C between 1950 and 2010, with rainfall decreasing by an alarming 40%. Ironically, the country also experienced flash floods caused by changes in weather patterns. In Bangladesh, between 2000 and 2019, the country experienced 185 extreme weather events that cost a combined total of £3.3bn. Other countries such as Chad, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi and Niger also experienced greater than average effects. The University of Notre Dame have created an index to classify a countries vulnerability to climate change, and have shown that lower-income countries are unproportionable affected by climate change compared with those with a higher GDP.

The effect of climate change on industry

Industry faces multiple challenges from the effects of climate change:

  • Physical threats caused by disruption to business operations, which are most acutely experienced by the logistics and transportation sectors. 

  • Transitional risks are experienced by a wide variety of organizations who are required to adapt to changing government regulations. The energy sector is most affected by this, with the growing focus on renewable energy and reducing Co2 emissions.

  • Liability risks are experienced by organizations that are susceptible to possible litigation, for example structural engineers or property developers who fail to consider increased intensity of rainfall in the design of drainage systems.

To mitigate these risks, companies are taking an increasingly proactive approach to understanding the effects of climate change, as well as the immediate and prevailing weather conditions. 

OpenWeather provides a suite of products that can be used across a wide range of industries to provide easy to use, yet detailed, accurate and nuanced data about historic, current and forecast weather conditions.  

We may well be all crew on Spaceship earth - and are all affected by climate change in both subtle and extreme ways, from minor changes to the cost of food to dramatic storms and power outages. Climate change is undoubtedly here, and its effects have now become part of our daily lives.

About OpenWeather:

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The wide variety of these products work across a multitude of enterprises, and include a vast range of forecasts including minute forecast, observation and historic information for any global location. Our industry-standard, fast, reliable APIs streamline flexible integration with enterprise systems. Our pricing and licensing is transparent.

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