Consequences

Earthquakes:
An earthquake is a shaking of a part of the Earth’s surface that often causes great damage. Earthquakes happen when there is a buildup of pressure against two or more tectonic plates. If global temperatures rise and ocean levels rise, the pressure on the Earth’s surface would grow. This would lead to more common tectonic plate movement and more earthquakes. At the end of the last Ice Age when the ocean levels rose quickly, “[the ice sheets] were so heavy that the resulting release of pressure on the Earth’s crust caused it to ‘bounce back’, triggering earthquakes.” (1)

Tornadoes and Hurricanes:A tornado is a destructive vortex of violently rotating winds that has the appearance of a funnel-shaped cloud and forms beneath a large storm system, and a hurricane is a storm with severe winds. Both tornadoes and hurricanes are violent wind storms that are responsible for some of the worst destruction on planet Earth. Approximately 100 people die each year from hurricanes and tornadoes, and in 2011 they cost the United States $25 billion dollars in damages. Wind is created when warm air goes into the atmosphere and the air on the ground rushes to fill the area where it was. As global warming increases, large quantities of warm air will rise into the atmosphere, possibly causing more severe wind. While it is difficult to prove that climate change is causing an increase in the numbers and severity of tornadoes and hurricanes, there has been a 14% increase in tornado activity since 1950.

Tsunamis:A tsunami is a long, high sea wave that is caused by some disturbance in the water. Mass global climate change can lead to an increase in melting ice caps that stabilize the Earth’s pressure, which will create more tsunamis. When the pressure on the Earth’s surface fluctuates even as little as the pressure of a human bite (which is 120 lbs.), it can cause submarine (underwater) landslides, which can lead to tsunamis. In the last 125,000 years, 50% of all tsunamis happened between 8,000 and 15,000 years ago, coinciding with the sea level rise after the last ice age.(2)

Volcanoes:
A volcano is a hill or mountain that has a vent that goes deeper into the Earth’s surface that shoots out magma, gases, and rock when there is enough built-up pressure. There is a volcano in Alaska that flows magma every year during the winter months because the water level rises 10-15 cm. This is an example of how little change is needed to cause a volcanic eruption. However, changes in sea level would be much more catastrophic with global warming because when the ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise much more than just 10-15 cm (3). The rapid sea level rise would create much more pressure on the Earth because water weighs slightly more than ice.

Droughts:
A drought is a prolonged period of below-average precipitation normally followed by a lower-than-average amount of water in the area. In the American West there has been a historic 4-year drought caused by growing populations, increased competition for available water, poor water quality, outmoded urban water infrastructure. There was a massive drought in the U.S. in the late 1980s, which cost the U.S. around $39 billion, from damages and lost crop revenue. As the atmosphere warms due to CO2 levels, water would evaporate much faster, leading to more severe and longer-lasting droughts.

Starvation:
Starvation is when a living creature does not get the essential nutrients they need to survive, caused by lack of food. The U.S. has lost over 1.3 billion dollars in crops, due to the increasing difficulty to grow produce with rising global temperatures. Droughts have and will continue to cause a decline in food production: corn in North America and Africa, and wheat in India. Water would evaporate from the Earth’s surface and stay in the atmosphere, reducing the water available to use for crops. If the world’s temperature continues to increase, there would be a continued instability in water supply, leading to less food production around the world. People are already starving in poor countries because there isn’t enough food to support them, and with a warmer climate there would be more starvation.

Migration:
Migration is movement of a large group from one place to another. Historically, humans have migrated to escape from people hunting them or for food. The human body functions best at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When the body temperature is too hot, people get heat stroke, sun stroke, heat exhaustion, etc. With even a small temperature increase, the ecosystem can be thrown out of balance and can become too hot for people to live, forcing people to move away from the equator. A great migration like this would cause extreme overcrowding in habitable places, causing more global issues besides natural disasters.

Forest Fires:
Forest fires are fires started in forests that normally restore acres of wooded area. They are caused by combustion relations, which start for a variety of reasons. With an increase in global warming due to accelerating CO2 levels, forest fires would become much more common and last longer. Global temperature rises would lead to a longer fire season because the environment would be warmer for a longer period of time. The dryness from increased heat would create more dead flora, which serves as fuel to fires. Forest fires have a prominent impact on the world. Trees take in the CO2 from the atmosphere and produce oxygen for people to breathe; however, forest fires produce CO2, take oxygen, and destroy the photosynthesis process that recycles CO2 and makes oxygen. Regrowing trees takes decades. Losing forests due to fires is an extreme loss for the environment.

 

 

(1) McGuire, Bill. Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.

(2) Daniel Brothers, geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Coastal and Marine Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.

(3) McGuire, Bill. Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2012. Print.