People often realize that it is the warmest days of the year when temperatures have reached 42 degrees Celsius or higher where they reside.

Indeed, an extra degree or two makes things somewhat more unpleasant, but we presume it is not the end of civilization.

Global warming and climate change are approaching the point where several biological ecosystems will most certainly surpass catastrophic thresholds of no comeback, causing long-term impacts and changing existence as we know it.

The crucial aspect worth noting is that global warming is caused by fossil fuel and coal combustion. Some locations, such as the polar regions, are heating faster than others due to various natural forces.

Consequently, when we refer to the averting 1.5 degrees of global warming, we refer to a 1.5-degree spike in the earth’s average global temperature.

However, that line has already been breached in specific locations. Even if global temperatures increase equals 1.5 degrees, average temperatures will still escalate well above that level in a few regions.

If the global temperature upscales and surpasses 1.5 degrees Celsius, countless people would be exposed to potentially life-threatening climatic changes followed by poverty.

It almost wholly eliminates coral reef ecosystems, which are vital to complex ecosystems all over the planet. Not to mention that most of our cities will soon be swallowed by the seas. And the worst part is, that’s only the beginning.

Table of Contents

Rising sea levels

Sea Level Rise. Copyright: NASA Space Place

By the conclusion of the 21st century, we would anticipate a 48 centimeters upsurge in sea level, approximately twice as much as the current pace, assuming 1.5 degrees of global warming.

However, a two-degree increase in temperature would raise ocean levels by 56 centimeters. Past that point, it is uncertain how far sea levels could rise since arctic ice loss accelerates dramatically due to feedback cycles causing a domino effect to amplify climate change. 

Henceforth, even if the warming trend is restricted to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the sea levels will keep going up because warmth already accumulated in the oceans due to human-caused warming leads them to expand uncontrollably. 

Even the least severe possibility could result in a significant flood, landslide, and tidal waves in eight of the planet’s ten most prominent cities.

However, if the temperature rises by 3 degrees Celsius, millions of people will be forced from residents owing to the rising sea levels.

Ocean getting hotter

Heating ocean - temperature rise
Ocean surface temperature rise from 1880-2020 (source)

The ocean waters absorb heat while absorbing greenhouse gases already full of heat energy from the sun, leading to ocean water temperatures.

Since the 1970s, the seas on earth have trapped more than 93 percent of the extra warmth from greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, ocean temperatures are rising.

Because of the sea’s propensity to soak surplus heat, humanity has been protected from the current havoc of climate change.

Global average temperatures would have increased much faster than they have so far if not for the marine buffer against heat radiations. 

At 1.5 degrees Celsius, the planet should anticipate 16 times higher marine heatwaves each year, 23 times more at 2 degrees Celsius, and 41 times more at 3.5 degrees Celsius.

Warming oceans also impact plants and reef-building species like corals and marshes, buffer coasts from destruction, and rising seas.

The warming trend in ocean waters poses a severe threat to food security and livelihoods worldwide by disrupting fish stock patterns and increasing the susceptibility of fish species to illnesses. Ocean heating is expected to cost thousands of dollars in economic damages.

More rain and extensive droughts

drought - temperature rise
Dry Kutch River bed in India (source)

Components of the water cycle are anticipated to ramp up as global temperatures continue to rise, increasing the evaporation rates around the globe.

Generally, more evaporation results in more precipitation. Increased evaporation and precipitation patterns are already having a strong influence, and the life-threatening effects are projected to unfold as the climate proceeds to warm throughout this millennium.

Climate change changes precipitation patterns, resulting in tremendous rainstorms and droughts, both extensively disruptive situations.

Droughts and torrential rain could disrupt farming, force people out of their homes, and wreak havoc on the domestic economy.

According to Carbon Brief, with less than 1.5 degrees of global warming, 17 percent of regions will experience extreme rainfall, and average rainfall will expand by 2%.

A 2-degree elevation would subject 36 percent of the area to heavy rain and increase average rainfall by a staggering 4%. That indicates that a half-degree increase in temperature would double the impacts.

This seemingly insignificant variation would double the annual drought duration. And, such droughts are likely to afflict 700 million people by 2030.

Disappearance of Wildlife

arctic fox - temperature rise
Arctic fox might go extinct if snow melts (source)

Habitat interruption and rapid shift in ecosystems due to climate change are limiting the ability of wildlife to meet their biological necessities.

This shifting perhaps is the most significant consequence of global warming on biodiversity. Temperature variations and water scarcity frequently alter habitats, affecting native plants and the creatures that rely on them.

Several experts agree that climate change is triggering a disruption in the schedule of different natural cyclical episodes in the livelihoods of creatures, in addition to habitat shifting.

Numerous songbirds have adjusted their long-standing migratory and reproductive plans to better align with the changing environment. And, maybe as a result of the rising spring warmth, some hibernating birds are waking up sooner each year.

Species vanish throughout the flora and fauna realms as temperatures increase and human activities wreck environments. The more heated the planet gets in the upcoming years, the worse the situation will get.

If the global average temperature climbs up by 1.5 degrees Celsius to 2 degrees Celsius, habitat destruction for all organisms will double or triple.

And in case the earth warms by more than 3 degrees, a bulk of the globe will become uninhabitable for species.

Caribou (reindeer), arctic foxes, toads, polar bears, penguins, gray wolves, tree swallows, painted turtles, and salmon are the natural species most affected by global warming. And, the sad part is, the list is increasing each year.

Health and Global warming

Health - temperature rise
Illustration of the probable impact of global warming regarding epidemics (source)

Apart from the obvious implications on livelihoods, global warming is expected to significantly and negatively influence human health.

The people from the nations that have contributed the least to global warming are the ones who are most exposed to mortality and sickness caused by rising temperatures.

Experts believe that global warming will wreak havoc on human wellbeing, particularly in tropical areas. A rise in temperature in countries like Africa means a substantial growth in mosquitos, raising the danger of malaria, dengue fever, and other insect-borne diseases.

Climate change is expected to kill more people than any disease in human history. Patients with cardiovascular problems, particularly those in hot climates, are much more sensitive to rising temperatures because their heart muscles must fight harder to keep the body temperature low.

Extreme heat raises ozone levels, harming the respiratory system and causing issues for asthmatic people. 

Mosquito populations will grow by up to 20% in dry regions and 6% in humid settings if the temperature increases by no more than 1.5 degrees.

A half-degree increase in temperature would increase their ranges by up to 30% and 10%, respectively. We can only imagine what happens with the rise to 3 degrees Celsius. 

Other Implications and Figures

  • Ice sheets: The experts predict that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free one summer once every century at 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. In contrast, with 2 degrees Celsius rise, the possibility increases to at least one ice-free summer every ten years.
  • Food security: When the temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius, compared to 1.5 degrees, food security is predicted to suffer extensively. Crop yields will be significantly affected, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. Additionally, rice and wheat will lose their nutritional advantage.
  • Fishery: One worldwide simulation used in the United Nations report predicts a 1.5 million-tonne reduction in global yearly harvest for marine fishing with a 1.5°C increase, doubles at 2°C, and triples at 3°C upsurges in the global temperature.
  • Coral reef: Coral ecosystems from around the planet are expected to collapse by 70-90 percent if the global temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Coral reefs are expected to fall by more than 99 percent with a 2°C warming, signaling an unrepairable erasure in many coastal and marine ecosystems.

To Wrap Up

Tropical forests are making their way into the savannah desert. The deep blue ocean is swallowing ice sheets. Coral reefs that were once vibrant and exotic are turning white.

The average number of days in Darwin, Australia, warmer than 35 degrees, is likely to increase from 11 to 265 days. Essentially, each day would indeed be a scorching day.

The higher the temperature rises, the better the likelihood of reaching a critical threshold of no return. An increase in the probability of planetary systems failing and irrevocably driving earth towards a considerably hotter state is what three degrees upsurge in the global temperature signifies.

Despite the Paris agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, drop-in pollution due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, and uprisings of environmentalists, we have not been able to make the slightest impact on the changing implications of climate change.

Our actions are not enough. Every degree matters!

(Last Updated on November 16, 2021 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!