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How Climate Change Has Already Affected the Planet

As we approach the 2020s, saving the Earth seems to be more and more of a priority and even “trendy”, despite its skeptics. Many companies and restaurants have stopped using plastic straws. Thrifting clothes to avoid fast fashion is becoming more popular, and alternative energy sources are being explored.

But it’s important to remember that all this preparing for planetary disaster isn’t in advance, or a future event we can put off preparing for. Climate change has already made its effects on the world. For example, diseases are spreading more quickly (in the US, diseases spread by ticks more than doubled between 2006 and 2014), allergy seasons are becoming more intense, and intense heatwaves recently actually melted roads in multiple places. A 2015 heatwave in India killed over 1,100 people.

Also, as the ocean becomes hotter and more acidic, marine organisms have trouble making their calcium carbonate shells with increased acidification, and rising ocean temperatures contribute to phenomenons such as coral bleaching, which is detrimental for many organisms depending on corals (a quarter of all marine life). In addition, droughts in other places have had catastrophic effects. Almost fifteen million people have lost their homes in the Philippines since 2013. Overall, the Earth’s average temperature increased by about two degrees Fahrenheit during the twentieth century. To put that in perspective, the Earth’s average temperature was only about five to nine degrees cooler during the last Ice Age. 

Photo credit: ABC News

Climate change has also had its fair share of effects locally. Cape Cod is eroding away, threatened by rising waves, as the ocean around it is warming more quickly than almost any ocean in the world. Beaches on the Outer Cape lose around three feet of shore each year, and homes on the shore have to be relocated inland. In general, New England has had a ten percent rise in precipitation, a two-degree rise in average precipitation, and increased storms, hurricanes and flooding, including recent king (very large) tides that actually flooded the Boston waterfront.

Photo 2 credit: Boston Magazine

In addition, one of the most devastating large-scale past effects of climate change was that it was a factor in sparking the Syrian civil war. As temperatures rise, events such as droughts and storms become more frequent. 1.5 million Syrian farmers moved to the cities as it became harder to maintain their crops. Prices of food quickly increased, and livestock died. Other factors lead to the war such as the government and high unemployment rates, but the drought caused by climate change was found to be a major factor. 

Photo credit: Vice

All of this is only going to get worse, so it’s important that we don’t forget at any time to take action to help the planet. Every action matters when they add up with the billions of other people’s actions. We can’t let global warming ruin the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren before they have even started. 


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Olivia is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying marine science. She loves the ocean and summer more than anything and wants to live somewhere warmer one day even though she's spent her whole life in Massachusetts. She also likes music, night runs, and writing pointless things.
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