Global warming is already having significant and costly effects on our communities, our health, and our climate. Unless we take immediate action to reduce global warming emissions, these impacts will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly and damaging, and increasingly affect the entire planet — including you, your community, and your family.
More frequent and extreme heat
We are facing a potentially staggering expansion of dangerous heat over the coming decades, with rapid and widespread increases in extreme heat projected to occur across the United States due to climate change.
Rising seas and increased coastal flooding
Average global sea level has increased eight inches since 1880 but is rising much faster on the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Global warming is now accelerating the rate of sea-level rise, increasing flooding risks to low-lying communities and high-risk coastal properties whose development has been encouraged by today’s flood insurance system.
Longer and more damaging wildfire seasons
Wildfires are increasing and wildfire season is getting longer in the Western U.S. as temperatures rise. Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snow-melt result in forests that are hotter and drier for longer periods of time, priming conditions for wildfires to ignite and spread.
More destructive hurricanes
While hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, recent research indicates that their destructive power, or intensity, has been growing since the 1970s, particularly in the North Atlantic region.
Costly and growing health impacts
Climate change has significant implications for our health. Rising temperatures will likely lead to increased air pollution, a longer and more intense allergy season, the spread of insect-borne diseases, more frequent and dangerous heat waves, and heavier rainstorms and flooding. All of these changes pose serious, and costly, risks to public health.
An increase in extreme weather events
Strong scientific evidence shows that global warming is increasing certain types of extreme weather events, including heatwaves, coastal flooding, extreme precipitation events, and more severe droughts. Global warming also creates conditions that can lead to more powerful hurricanes.
Heavier precipitation and flooding
As temperatures increase, more rain falls during the heaviest downpours, increasing the risk of flooding events. Very heavy precipitation events, defined as the heaviest one percent of storms, now drop 67 percent more precipitation in the Northeast, 31 percent more in the Midwest and 15 percent more in the Great Plains than they did 50 years ago.
Destruction of marine ecosystems
Higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, due to the burning of fossil fuels, is making oceans both warmer and more acidic. These two effects threaten the survival of marine life. Corals, shellfish, and phytoplankton, which are the base of the food chain, are, particularly at risk.
More severe droughts in some areas
Climate change affects a variety of factors associated with drought and is likely to increase drought risk in certain regions. As temperatures have warmed, the prevalence and duration of drought have increased in the western U.S. and climate models unanimously project increased drought in the American Southwest.
Spring arrives much earlier than it used to — 10 days earlier on average in the northern hemisphere. Snow melts earlier. Reservoirs fill too early and water needs to be released for flood control. Vegetation and soils dry out earlier, setting the stage for longer and more damaging wildfire seasons.
Temperatures are rising in the planet’s polar regions, especially in the Arctic, and the vast majority of the world’s glaciers are melting faster than new snow and ice can replenish them. Scientists expect the rate of melting to accelerate, with serious implications for future sea-level rise.