How will climate change affect men and their families in the long run? Brittni Brown poses this ever-evolving question.
For many of us, thoughts about the changing climate are limited to annoyance with a government that is still squabbling over the facts. Often times we don’t even notice the indirect impacts of our changing climate regardless of how much they actually cost us.
The first week of December marks a long anticipated United Nations climate conference held in Paris. A number of significant topics are being discussed by world leaders such as carbon taxes, waste reduction, and global adaptation this week, but how will these issues truly affect men, their families, and their communities when the rubber hits the road?
More Painful Extremes
Over the past decade, we have witnessed weather extremes in many areas across the US that are considered greatly exacerbated by a changing climate. For instance, the impacts of the 2014-15 winter season in Boston. Extreme levels of snowfall greatly impacted the city’s economy by shutting down large parts of the city and costing over $1 billion in lost profits and wages for local inhabitants.
On the opposite extreme, Western states such as California are suffering through multiple years of extreme drought that is taking its toll on one of the state’s biggest resources: farming. California has earned the reputation of ‘nation’s fruit basket’ for good reason; it is responsible for the production of nearly 70 percent of US fruit and tree nuts as well as 55 percent of vegetables. As production decreases, prices across the US increase, which can make purchasing healthy foods difficult for many families.
The Suffering Suffer More
As the climate change summits continues, it has become clear to many that the least affluent members of society are likely to pay a more profound price for a changing climate. Many world leaders have spoken out about this inequality as a means to draw attention to the issue. George Washington University political management professor, Mark Kennedy, summarizes climate inequality feelings of Pope Francis in his blog:
“Francis is animated by the fact that any global warming would have its biggest economic impact on the least among us, including subsistence farmers, and in the geographies where many poor live, massed along the ocean’s shore. This is a magnetic message that attracts many to listen to the Good News while beneficially representing populations whose voices are too often muffled.”
New Beachfront Property
Rising sea levels that are associated with a changing climate are also set to pose a significant threat to many of our large coastal cities including New York, Miami, and Seattle. Even setting the temperature ceiling at 2 degrees Celsius, as is the goal of the conference in Paris, is likely to leave many cities at risk of annual flooding at best and underwater at worst. And that is if world leaders can agree on this limit.
Interactive maps showing the extent of sea level rise under various climate conditions indicate that many people will be forced to evacuate inland, effectively making them refugees within their own country. Massive inland migrations across the US would cost the economy billions, if not trillions of dollars in lost productivity and the impact on families would be intense. Furthermore, many inland towns and cities are lacking the infrastructure to support large influxes of new citizens, which could cause even the most landlocked city to feel the strain.
Addressing climate change in an effective manner is not expected to be either easy or inexpensive in its own right. In many ways, our society is being asked to make some major, uncomfortable changes to our lifestyle. But adjustments to reduce greenhouse emissions today will be the ones that limit the severity of the results tomorrow.
There are a number of small ways to begin making changes immediately, and many are ultimately more cost effective. For example, purchasing more energy efficient appliances or utilizing alternative forms of transportation can limit utility and fuel bills while also reducing emissions. A more sustainable future is a goal for all of us to work towards.
Photo Credit: John Englart (Takver)/Flickr