How Climate Change Affects Everyone

It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking of climate change as something that is happening somewhere else and which won’t directly affect us as individuals. We know about the threats to animal species and rising sea levels and change in crop production, but since we are not involved with these sectors, it is hard to connect climate change to our daily lives.

Climate change will—of course—affect our daily lives. From how we exercise to how we eat, this post will look at some of the expected effects and share some resources for how you can learn more about them.

Climate Change and Agriculture:

One impact of climate change might be increased crop yields, but they may come at a price as more fertilizer and water are used. (Photo courtesy of USDA)

It is probably not surprising that climate change will bring some changes to agriculture. After all, what is more exposed to the climate than plants?

One surprising change is that crop yields in the US might actually increase. Longer growing seasons, warmer temperatures, and more CO2 in the atmosphere could lead to more crops if farmers also make certain changes like increased fertilizing and watering. But these changes will have long term effects on the environment as more chemicals are introduced and more water is used.

Extreme weather events are also likely to increase. Over the past year, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods have devastated communities across the country. Extreme weather will clearly affect everyone.

Extreme weather will also impact crop production. Both plants and livestock are going to be more susceptible to drought, and fisheries will be threatened by ocean acidification. Fish will need to follow cooler water to new places, putting new species in contact and competition.

Resources are also going be spread thinner, as the developing world needs more food imports. Food prices in the U.S. will also likely rise, and not just from production costs. It will cost more to get the food places too.

Climate Change and Transportation:

These airports are in danger of being flooded by storms as coastal areas change with rising sea levels and increased extreme weather. (Figure courtesy of U.S. Global Change Research Program)

The problems faced by the transportation system might be less apparent than those faced by the agriculture sector, but they are still big.

The change in where crops can grow will change traffic patterns, as different roads will need to handle new loads they were not designed for. Traffic may pop up on roads that were almost deserted before.

One thing that is sure to affect your daily life will be road conditions. Pavement performs worse in higher temperatures, so road problems such as potholes will likely increase. Furthermore, there will be more delays with construction as heat and extreme weather prevent consistent work.

Bridges are also threatened by climate change. Some bridges may be too close to rising waters and be flooded more often. Even those that are higher might be too low for ships to pass under them with rising water levels. Airports will also be threatened by rising sea levels, including major hubs like San Francisco International, JFK, LaGuardia and Ronald Reagan Washington National.

Climate Change and Energy:

Access to large amounts of water are essential for power plants, but may become an issue for the very places where more power plants will be needed. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)

Airports aren’t the only thing we’ve built right on the coast. Many major cities have power plants that may become unusable with rising sea levels. Extreme weather events that may contribute to the loss of power plants may also take out electric grids too, compounding the problem.

At the same time, there will be an increased need for the power plants as cooling needs increase with rising temperatures. The Southwest, Southeast and Great Plains regions are expected to see around three additional weeks of average AC usage.

Power plants need large amounts of water for cooling and for steam to turn turbines. Unfortunately, some of the places that are most likely to need the most new plants as energy needs increase, like the Southwest, are also places with large drought problems. Without water, new power plants can’t be built, so energy will become an even bigger problem.

Climate Change and Health:

Climate change is going to cause a global health crisis, and it has already started. Rates of disease in the developing world are very likely to increase. We have already seen how high heat can lead to increased mortality for older people as well, such as with heat waves in Europe and in the Southeast.

Flooding and other natural disasters will only increase transmission rates and make populations already at risk, like people in developing countries, more susceptible to disease.

Just trying to stay healthy in relatively unaffected areas will involve new problems. sent us an article about extra steps to stay safe exercising in higher heat. Tips include being sure to stay hydrated, not trying to run as long as you normally do, and dressing for the temperature even if it’s raining.

We have already started to see the effects of climate change in our lives and they will only get more noticeable. Everything from exercising to driving to work will get more difficult as the extreme weather and average temperatures rise. Some of the most important pieces of infrastructure, including bridges over the Mississippi and the largest airports in the U.S., are threatened by changes to water levels. Hopefully, knowing about these dangers ahead of time will make us better prepared to meet them.