60 minutes


Learning Path

As man made global warming increases the earth’s average surface temperature, there are many direct impacts on the earth. These changes to our environment have catastrophic impacts.

As our planet’s average temperature increases, more glaciers and ice sheets melt, causing more water to be added to the sea and rising sea levels. As the temperature of the sea rises, thermal expansion occurs and sea levels rise more. Currently, the sea levels rise by about 3.6mm a year. This doesn’t seem at first glance to be all that bad. However, this rise is continuous and in a few decades, many coastal cities face a huge risk of flooding, including places like Miami, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Shanghai just to name a few of the many cities facing this threat. Millions of people will have to be displaced as their homes become flooded and billions of dollars will have to be spent on seawalls and other protective measures just to keep their cities safe. The rising sea levels also give rise to increased storm surges which leads onto the other significant problem.

The increase in average global temperature enhances the already problematic natural disasters, including storms, hurricanes and wildfires.


As sea levels rise and the temperature of the sea increases, storms can gain more energy from the sea and air, making them larger and last for longer. This has devastating effects on any place that experiences hurricanes as they are about to get far worse. Look at 2020 for example, a record number of hurricanes have hit the east coast of America with higher wind speeds and longer durations. This is a clear example of how global warming enhances the natural disaster.


With a rising average air temperature, the chances of a wildfire starting increases, leading to more fires and more land burned. In 2018, 8.8 million acres of land were burned compared to roughly 3.3 million acres in 1990. To put this into perspective, the area lost every year because of the increase in global warming is the same area as 3.1 million football pitches, which almost seems unreal. If all of that land was instead used for planting wheat to feed people, there would be another 1.5 x 1010 loaves of bread per year. This would probably be enough to solve world hunger. These figures really put the problem of climate change into perspective. So many problems can be solved or helped by reducing man made global warming.

While most species can withstand warm temperatures, research has shown that an increase of even 1 or 2 degrees celsius can have a dire impact on many plants and animals. Warmer temperatures may cause plants to fruit at different times, thus affecting many animals’ food supplies. This may cause a huge occurrence of extinction across the world, and spark a huge chain reaction of negative consequences.

Not only that, but warmer temperatures can lead to more forest fires, many of which can destroy acres and acres of land. Studies in the Amazon River basin show that temperatures rises result in 10-20 percent reductions in rainfall. As temperatures increase, so do forest fires.

Climate change is also driven by an increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. These increases have huge impacts on the environment.


As more carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea, the acidity of the ocean increases. This acidity threatens the lives of many ocean species, such as various fish species and coral. Even if one is affected, each consequence can cause a domino effect of negative consequences. For example, coral bleaching (caused by ocean acidification) can cause the extinction of many small plankton species that rely on the corals as their habitat, which affects larger organisms, all the way to apex predators like Great Whites.

The social impacts:

Though climate change is obviously an environmental issue, it also has deep social implications, more than you would expect. Climate change doesn’t affect us all equally; some people will feel the impacts of it more harshly than others.

  1. Small farmers

As global temperatures are on the rise, small farmers suffer more and more consequences on top of their many responsibilities. Even without global warming, they earn very little from their produce and need to cover the costs of fertilisers and pest controls.

With more instances of extreme weather patterns, their crops are easily destroyed, making it harder for them to make money. For example, unstable rainfall patterns can affect the types of crops they can grow. The crops they can grow are often less in demand, making them lose even more money.

These effects have detrimental implications for farmers and their families’ livelihoods, as many of them rely on their crops and produce to survive in a growingly competitive world. With more farmers competing to sell goods, their lives are made even more difficult by changing weather and global warming.

  1. Elderly, women, and children

In many rural areas of poorer countries, large families rely on the men to be the breadwinners and bring back income. This leaves the women and the children at home to carry out household duties. Due to lack of good transportation, they need to travel far and wide by foot to get water and other resources like firewood. With changing weather patterns, supplies of these resources are depleting, making them even harder for the women and children to access. As a result of this, they are also more suscpetible to conditions like heat stroke, malnourishment, and extreme fatigue.

A number of countries still suffer from serious gender inequality, where women often don’t have the same access to the resources (land, capital, etc.) that men do. For example, they have less access to climate resilient technology or crops, which are necessary for their adaptation to the changing climate.

  1. Poorer urban areas

Extreme inequality in urban areas is exacerbated by climate change. In many large cities, factories generating a huge amount of waste and carbon dioxide are often near poorer neighbourhoods. For example, in a study done in 2019, pollution seemed to consistently be affecting the same low-income communities in parts of America; it just so happens that these communities largely consisted of people of colour. People living in these areas also tend to suffer more from the consequences of extreme temperatures: air conditioning is rarely seen even during swelling heat waves, as is heating to protect against harsh winters.

  1. Healthcare

As seen above, it is seen that those less-priviliged suffer the adverse effects of climate change more harshly, resulting in poorer health quality and easier spread of disease. These diseases can arise from poor air quality, increasing instances of floods, etc. However, these sufferers often have less access to healthcare services, thus increasing the inequality gap.

The WHO found that the rising temperatures and variable rain patterns due to climate change have caused over 140,000 deaths. Globally, weather-related natural disasters have resulted in over 60,000 deaths the majority of which in developing countries.

Between 2016-2019 climate disasters (e.g. wildfires and hurricanes) cost North America $415 billion. Climate change is costing humans more and more money as we try to acclimate to harsher conditions, while also trying to mitigate these effects.

  1. Agriculture

Increase in rainfall and flooding leads to the washing away of fields as well as the drowning of livestock. In 2019, Nebraska lost $440 million worth of cattle, and it is predicted that by 2050 the Midwest in America will lose approximately 25% of its corn and soybean yield.

  1. Tourism

Areas that are popular for skiing may lose tourism with increasing temperatures leading to less snow. The rising temperatures could lead to an increase in algae blooms which could affect water activities in the summer.

  1. Infrastructure

Infrastructure(e.g. housing, transportation) near costs are in danger of being flooded and needing to be rebuilt. This could cost governments around the world trillions of dollars.

  1. Resources

Certain resources such as water could become more expensive as they become harder to mine and store. In the UK there will be an increase in the demand for electricity to power cooling systems in the summer. These changes in the standard of living will affect low-income families more and could lead to an increase in poverty.

  1. New technologies

More technologies associated with climate change will become more necessary in the future, especially as human beings need to adapt to changing conditions. These technologies are often expensive, thus having a large impact on countries’ economies. For example, desalination of ocean water may be very important as freshwater supplies deplete more and more, which creates higher demand for more efficient but expensive technologies.

Welcome to your The impact of climate change

Why is ocean acidification bad?
How are small farmers affected by climate change?
What are the health effects of climate change?
Why is climate change bad for tourism?
How will climate change cost countries’ resources?
How are people living in poverty affected by climate change?


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