Climate change: Affecting more than just the environment

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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Each year it seems like we learn more and more about how big of a deal climate change is. And starting today, representatives from close to 100 different countries will meet in Yokohama, Japan as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and complete a summary to share with world leaders on just how bad the problem might become.

As the AP writes: “The big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. It's not just about melting ice, threatened animals and plants. It's about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, becoming worse.”

The panel has addressed a few key areas that provide definite cause for concern. These include:

  • An increase in global violence. We may not see the world dissolve into wars, but existing threats could be exacerbated by an additional element of instability caused by rising temperatures. 
  • Food prices may soar, and “hotspots of hunger” may appear in cities.
  • The amount of available water will shrink with every degree of warming, which could affect nearly one third of the world’s population.
  • There is an increased possibility for injury and illness related to heat waves, fires, and diseases that spread through food and water.
  • And perhaps most interestingly for Catholics to take note of: Climate change may contribute to the gap between the rich and poor – the poor could get poorer.

You may not consider yourself an activist against – or even a believer in – climate change. But do you consider yourself to be against violence that can come from unrest, and supportive of peace? Do you believe that no one should go hungry, and that water is a human right? What about protecting your health and the health of your community? Do you believe that the rich shouldn’t get richer while the poor continue to fall on increasingly harder times?

If so, it might be time to add climate change to the list of issues to pay attention to. Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist from Texas Tech University, says that these new potential threats may be contributing to a change in attitude from the belief that the primary reason to take note of climate change is an environmental one.

"We care about it because it's going to affect nearly every aspect of human life on this planet," she says.

Image: Flickr photo cc by Clearwater Public Library System Photos