In case you have not personally experienced increased severe storms, wildfire, species migration, or last winter’s polar vortex, or haven’t heard the news that 10,883 of 10,885 peer-reviewed scientific papers published on climate change last year linked it to human activity, the 2014 National Climate Assessment reports that climate change “has moved firmly into the present.” The comprehensive government report produced by hundreds of experts makes it ever more clear that science shows an “unequivocal” link between the global warming of the last 50 years and the greenhouse gases emitted by human civilization.
What is less widely understood than the changes in our weather, water supply, air quality, local ecosystems, and sea levels is the risk these conditions pose to our nation’s health, critical infrastructure, economy, and food supply. To make matters worse, these effects don’t occur in isolation, the report found: Stress in one area tends to superimpose on other stresses, exacerbating matters.
The report also delivers perhaps the most important message of all: Despite all the bad news, it’s not too late to slow down climate change and reduce the significant costs it could exact on our society. With that in mind, consider the following key facts about how climate change has already had an effect—and what the future could look like if we don’t limit our greenhouse gas emissions.