We’ve been warned about climate change for so long that it feels familiar, a constantly looming specter of doom up ahead. Like taxes or laundry, it’s been a problem regularly designated to Future Us while we deal with the continuing trauma of Present Us.
Unfortunately, however, the future is now. It’s laundry day, and climate change isn’t coming. It’s already here.
This may be difficult to fully appreciate from the comfort of your climate-controlled apartment. Global warming seems distant when you’re safe indoors, rugged up for winter, and nursing a mug of hot chocolate. But the holes we shove our heads in can’t keep out the rising tide, and eventually, we’re going to drown if we don’t take action.
In fact, we’re already swallowing water, and many of us don’t even know it. Here are eight ways climate change is already affecting you.
1. Your insurance premiums are going up
If the growing inhospitality of the planet feels too distant to bother with right now, let’s talk cold hard cash. One of the side effects of sea levels rising is that insurance premiums are rising with it, making that far off dream of homeownership even more elusive than it already is.
Increasing property values and natural disasters have over the past decade, with some Florida insurers raising this year alone. Several U.S. companies have even reduced or their coverage due to growing risks from extreme weather and wildfires, with disaster events that cause over $1 billion in damages increasing over the last few years.
“Weather and climate disasters have caused over $1.8 trillion in damage costs in the U.S. since 1980,” Felix Fernando, Assistant Professor of Sustainability at the University of Dayton’s Handley Sustainability Institute, told Mashable. “This year alone there have been 16 events that caused damages exceeding $1 billion… Premiums have increased for many who are able to continue to have their homes insured, in some cases more than tripling.”
2. House prices are changing
The good news: Climate change is causing house prices in some areas to drop, which could help you finally get into the property market! The bad news: The reason prices are falling is because the homes are falling as well — into the sea.
“Sales and prices of homes have been negatively impacted for homes in Florida that are more exposed to sea-level rise,” Neil Leary, Director of the Center for Sustainability Education at Dickinson College, told Mashable. “Wildfire may also depress house values in areas of the west where risks are high… On balance, the more we heat up the climate, there is a high likelihood that risks to life and property from weather extremes will rise.”
Of course, whether house prices fall is heavily influenced by . A study found prices were approximately seven percent higher in at-risk areas populated by denialists than in comparable areas populated by believers. For those who believe in overwhelming science, taking advantage of these lower house prices it isn’t worth the risk.
Owning a coastal property may sound like the Instagrammable dream, but scientists predict by 2045. That’s not even mentioning the increased risk of damaging storms and typhoons. The affordability of a beachfront house means nothing if it’s underwater.
3. The wealth gap is widening
Where do all the rich people go when their beachside homes are no longer habitable? They move to inland, lower-income neighborhoods. Climate gentrification is already raising house prices in such areas, many of which have historically been populated by poorer people of color. Now communities such as Little Haiti are being priced out of their homes.
It’s a horrible truth that low-income communities are the most heavily impacted by disasters, and climate change is no different. Global warming is already worsening social and economic inequality both between countries and within communities. During the 2019-20 Australian bushfires food delivery riders continued to work in hazardous smoke because they needed the money.
“The poor have the least resources to cope with climate change or the ability to recover from disasters,” said Fernando. “Poor people also have less money to deal with increased utility bills (for heating and cooling), increased insurance premiums, and might be disproportionately impacted by say a carbon tax (a carbon untax is a potential solution).”
4. People are becoming climate refugees
People typically migrate due to a combination of factors, so it’s hard to say exactly how many are motivated by climate-related concerns. We know it isn’t zero though. Climate change is directly prompting not just domestic migration, but international , with rising sea levels forcing people to leave low-lying countries. One such area is the Marshall Islands, home to 58,000 people and at risk of being .
However, climate change is also displacing people more indirectly. One of the primary instigators of the Syrian civil war was food shortages, which were caused by drought exacerbated by global warming. The conflict prompted many people to flee the country, causing the .
“Thus we are seeing the impacts of global climate change in the form of complex but interconnected events,” Brian Wygal, Director of Environmental Studies & Sciences at Adelphi University, told Mashable. “All across the world, we see similar examples of refugees escaping food insecurities, coastal flooding, extreme drought, and massive wildfires, all of which are exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change.”
5. Food is becoming less nutritious
In a world burning down around us both literally and metaphorically, a good meal is one of the few joys we have left. Yet climate change won’t even let us have this small consolation, making our food potentially less nutritious.
Studies have demonstrated that higher levels of carbon dioxide can , lowering the amount of protein, iron, and zinc in our food. While we haven’t observed atmospheric CO2 having this impact on our food yet, scientists warn that it may happen by 2050.
This won’t be as much of an issue in countries with an abundance of food — or at least not for a little while longer. For other areas, however, this may quickly become a serious problem.
Higher levels of carbon dioxide can reduce the nutritional value of crops, lowering the amount of protein, iron, and zinc in our food
“There are many people in developing countries where there is a deficiency of protein and micro-nutrients and this matters in those situations,” Prof Mark Howden, Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University, told Mashable.
6. Food is getting more expensive and scarce
Even if food retains its nutrients, getting your hands on it could soon be harder. There are already many places that struggle with food insecurity, from communities in poorer countries to food deserts in U.S. cities. These problems are only expected to get worse as climate change impacts our ability to produce and distribute food.
“Multiple studies indicate that observed climate change is already affecting food security through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events,” said Leary.
“Looking to the future, climate change, which is very likely to include increasing climate variability and extremes, is expected to place growing pressure on agriculture, causing increasingly negative effects on food production, food costs and food security, particularly in poorer, food-insecure countries.”
We’ve already seen the price of bananas in Australia spike following cyclones, as demand outstrips supply. Such food price spikes are expected to become more common as extreme climate events increase in frequency and severity, hindering agriculture.
“Certain major food-producing regions such as California and the Midwest are starting to see serious impacts from climate change such as droughts, wildfires, and floods,” said Fernando. “As these worsen so will the impacts on food production.”
Fernando also noted the potential impact of climate change on seafood as warming waters prompt fish to migrate. “Many people around the world are dependent on fish and fishing-related industries,” he said. “If fish start migrating with climate change to more conducive environments, these communities will experience major disruptions to their diets and livelihoods.”
7. Heatwaves are killing more people
Heat is the top cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., killing an average of over 600 people every year. Unfortunately, that number is likely to increase due to climate change. Heat deaths have steadily been increasing, with fatalities in Arizona alone almost doubling over the past decade. In 2019, heatwaves killed almost 900 people in the UK.
“One study estimates that, if no action is taken to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the average number of days per year with a heat index above 100°F will more than double by mid-century in U.S. cities relative to the average for 1971-2000,” said Leary. “The increase is very likely to increase heat-related mortality.”
U.S. cities saw their average number of heat waves increase from two per year in the ‘60s to six per year now. The length of the heatwave season has also increased from 20 days to almost 70.
Even if the heat doesn’t literally kill you, it’s still having a notable impact on outdoor activities. If you’re rich, your since what little snow there is melting more quickly. If you’re less wealthy, your ski resort jobs are in danger and your construction work more grueling.
“Heat stress has increased in many areas and this impacts on health, exercise, work, protective equipment needed, and avoidance practices,” said Howden.
8. You’re freaking out about it
Feelings of fear and helplessness regarding the ongoing climate crisis are perfectly valid. Global warming is an enormous, terrifying problem, and can often feel too huge to handle. A recent survey of 2,017 U.S. adults found over two-thirds of respondents felt at least some “eco-anxiety,” defined as anxiety due to climate change.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to manage your mental state as well as to fight climate change. Of these, the most important is to vote for politicians that will take action on global warming.
“There’s no doubt we need to address climate change, like yesterday,” said Fernando. “We cannot address climate change without governmental action and/or national level policies… We often talk about individual actions in terms of reducing, reuse, recycle, etc. While this is critically important, I want to stress the important role citizens can play in the political process.”
Reducing your food waste and refusing to buy bottled water is good, and you should definitely keep doing that. However, electing government officials that will hold corporations to account and actively advocate for green solutions will have a much larger material impact. According to a 2017 study, 71 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions were generated by just .
“What people can do is participate in democracy, actively and loudly,” said Leary. “Not just by voting in elections. But by writing to, calling, and visiting elected officials to make your voice heard. Do this not alone but join with and support organizations that advocate for strong action on climate change. Individual action has its place. But beating climate change will take collective action.”
It’s getting hot in here, so pick up all your phones.