At least 85 percent of the global population has experienced weather events made worse by climate change, according to research published by the journal Nature Climate Change.
The new research in Nature adds to a growing body of evidence that climate change is already disrupting human life on a global scale.
Scientists are increasingly able to attribute events like heat waves and hurricanes to human actions. In August, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change devoted an entire chapter to the extreme weather consequences of a warming world.
The study looked at average temperature and precipitation changes, rather than the most extreme impacts, there is even more evidence of climate change’s role, and the UN study concluded…“It is likely that nearly everyone in the world now experiences changes in extreme weather as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions”.
The human toll of these events has become impossible to ignore. This summer, hundreds of people in the Pacific Northwest died after unprecedented heat baked the usually temperate region. More than 1 million people in Madagascar are at risk of starvation as a historic drought morphs into a climate-induced famine. Catastrophic flooding caused New Yorkers to drown in their own homes, while flash flooding has inundated refugee camps in South Sudan.
In a letter released Monday, some 450 organizations representing 45 million health-care workers called attention to the way rising temperatures have increased the risk of many health issues, including breathing problems, mental illness and insect-borne diseases. One of the papers analyzed for the Nature study, for example, found that deaths from heart disease had risen in areas experiencing hotter conditions.
“The climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity,” the health organizations’ letter said.
Let the facts speak for themselves
After using machine learning to analyze and map more than 100,000 studies of events that could be linked to global warming, researchers paired the analysis with a well-established data set of temperature and precipitation shifts caused by fossil fuel use and other sources of carbon emissions.
These combined findings — which focused on events such as crop failures, floods and heat waves — allowed scientists to make a solid link between escalating extremes and human activities. They concluded that global warming has affected 80 percent of the world’s land area.
“We have a huge evidence base now that documents how climate change is affecting our societies and our ecosystems,” said lead author Max Callaghan, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Germany.
The study provides hard numbers to back up the lived experiences of people from New York City to South Sudan, concluding… “Today, climate change impacts are visible and noticeable almost everywhere in the world.”