All the wildfires, floods, and tornadoes of the last few months may be caused by climate change, but they could also be just a coincidence. But the effects of climate change go far beyond these visible natural disasters–we could see everything from public health crises and economic disasters to food shortages and ultra-potent poison ivy. A new interactive map from the Union of Concerned Scientists attempts to show all the potential (and already occurring) consequences of climate change, as identified by peer-reviewed studies.
The map covers the effects of climate change in five areas: oceans, ecosystems, temperatures, people (public health, food supplies, and the economy), and fresh water. The results are disturbing. A search for health effects in Europe, for example, tells us that “Cities in the Netherlands and throughout Europe suffered through an
unprecedented and deadly heat wave in the summer of 2003…a similar heat
wave could hit Europe every other year by the end of this century, on
average.” And a search for climate change’s effect on food in the U.S. pulls up this issue:
New Bedford, by thriving on the Georges Bank fishery, helped make
Massachusetts the dominant cod-producing state. Rising ocean
temperatures are pushing cod populations into colder waters, creating
uncertainty for the local fishing industry and coastal communities
dependent on it. The southern portion of Georges Bank has already seen a
drop in cod abundance.
UCS doesn’t just offer troubling scenarios; it also serves up region-specific potential solutions (i.e. preventing tropical deforestation in Latin America). But let’s be honest–the point of the map is partially to scare people into action. “One of the main goals of the map is to really bring the science of
climate change to life by connecting it to people’s daily lives around
the world,” said UCS climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel in a statement. “That’s the part
of climate research that’s sometimes hard to get from scientific
Can’t get enough climate change predictions? California residents can also use Cal-Adapt to visualize temperature increase in their towns and neighborhoods through 2050.