- JCI Blog
Effects of rising temperatures
By: Lilli Erigero and Kayla Butler
Climate change has been fueling extreme weather for years now. Our lack of action has prompted extreme weather conditions all across the world. Over the past century, massive increases in carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions have caused temperatures to rise. The spike in global temperatures fuels climate disasters that only worsen because of lack of action.
The Union of Concerned Scientists predict hotter temperatures and more frequent and intense heat waves in every region of the United States. Rising temperatures lead to a higher demand for air conditioning, fueling carbon pollution. Higher temperatures also lead to drier conditions in which moisture evaporates from bodies of water and soil. Droughts in the U.S. and around the world are becoming more severe and long-lasting due to climate change.
Dangerous heat has been hitting almost every part of the United States this summer. Warmer air increases evaporation, which means that our atmosphere contains an increasing amount of water vapor for storms to sweep up and turn into rain or snow. Areas of the world that have historically trended toward heavy precipitation will only get more wet. This past month in the United States, several states had major floods, including: Montana, Virginia, and New York.
Extreme weather conditions have also worsened in the winter. In 2021, record-breaking snowstorms knocked out power for about 4.5 million homes in Texas as icy conditions and heating demands have demanded an overwhelmingly large amount of the region’s power supply. The storms caused nearly $295 billion in damage and over a hundred people died. Climate change is not only costly, but the deaths associated with climate disasters are preventable had we taken action earlier.
Extreme heat also has devastating effects on the human body, leading to death and illness. For every 10*F increase in temperature there is a 2.6% increase in cardiovascular disease. In addition, climate change does not affect everyone equally, disproportionately exasperating inequity nationally and globally. And though these hot summers are felt by everyone in the United States, poorer households and vulnerable populations don’t have the same access to safe water, consistent electricity, shaded neighborhoods, etc.
According to an EPA report, Black and African Americans are projected to face higher impacts of climate change compared to all other ethic groups. 40% of Black and African Americans are more likely to live in areas with temperature related deaths. That number is suspected to rise to 59% with 4*C under global warming. Additionally, Hispanic and Latinx populations are shown to have high participation in weather-exposed industries such as agriculture and construction, exposing them to extreme-heat or leading to cuts in labor hours due to safety concerns.
If climate change is such a critical problem, why are policy makers so hesitant about implementing legislation that protects the environment, limits pollution, and could save lives? Though Biden claims to care about the environment and attempts to make positive changes, it is obviously not enough to combat the challenges we are facing. Additionally, the Supreme Court recently decided to severely undermine and limit the power of the EPA to enact environmental policy in West Virginia v. The EPA.
Extreme weather and climate disasters will only worsen if no action is taken, and the effects are irreversible. Climate measures, if enacted now, could relieve vulnerable populations from the adverse effects of climate disasters and reverse the global climate crisis. As a country, we need to do more. Our future and health depends on it.