Top Ten Things Climate Change Is Making Worse Right Now

NYC storm July 18. Taken by Dhani Jones

By Rebecca Leber and Ellie Sandmeyer

The onslaught of extreme weather and record temperatures this year have had an impact on people globally, directly through drought and temperature, and more indirectly impacting food prices and public transportation.

Here are 10 impacts we’re seeing right now that climate change is very likely worsening, in some cases playing a major role:

Rising Food Prices
Over half of the Continental U.S. is now facing severe drought–the worst in fifty years. As a result of extreme temperatures and little rain, corn production suffers although analysts predicted record production at the start of the year. In coming months, record-high food prices will continue to rise, affecting thousands of supermarket products. See also “Story of the Year: Warming-Driven Drought and Extreme Weather Emerge as Key Threat to Global Food Security.”

Goodbye Glaciers, Sea Ice
This week, an iceberg twice the size of Manhattan tore itself off of one of the largest glaciers in North Greenland, following another break of comparable size in 2010. Scientists say that such dramatic change is unprecedented, and report that “the Arctic had the largest sea ice loss on record for June.” [ClimateProgress]

A recent landslide on an Alaskan glacier was massive enough to register as a 3.4-magnitude earthquake, even recorded in Canada. “We are seeing an increase in rock slides in mountain areas throughout the world because of permafrost degradation,” a scientist said. [Huffington Post]

Massive Dust Storms
In addition to dangerous wildfires and drought, the current heat wave is helping to create massive dust storms in Arizona. These walls of dust and strong wind can be thousands of feet high, destroying property, setting of a chain of further environmental damage and killing an average of five people per year. [New York Times]

Toxic Algae Pollute Drinking Supply, Lakes: Spurred by warmer winters that prevent seasonal a die-off, Lake Zurich in Switzerland is seeing an increase in a toxic species of algae known as Burgandy blood algae. “Research on Lake Zurich in Switzerland reveals that Burgundy blood algae, a toxic cyanobacteria species, has become more dense in the last 40 years as warm winters prevent seasonal die-off.” [CBS News]

$1.5 Billion Hail Damage: In a striking example of current dramatically unpredictable weather patterns, some cities now experiencing record-breaking temperature highs are also dealing with the after-effects of extreme hail damage. Estimates suggest that total damage in places like Dallas, St. Louis and Norfolk, Nebraska could exceed $1.5 billion. [Inside Climate News]

Wildfire Causes $450 Million Damage In Colorado
States like Colorado and New Mexico have experienced their worst wildfire season on record, and the damage totaled an estimated $450 million in Colorado alone. However, there are additional costs of the fire. “Water quality, for example, is being compromised up to 100 miles from burn sites,” and air quality has been damaged, even indoors. [Washington Post]

Greater Terrors For Mountain Climbers: “Sharper seasonal variations of ice and snow and temperature are being repeated all across the world from the Himalayas to the Andes, which scientists say are driven by a higher level of energy in the atmosphere from global warming.” Veteran climbers “say today’s conditions are combining to create a volatile highball of risk.” [NY Times]

More Drilling In The Arctic, Taxpayers Pay For Risks: Ironically, oil companies are capitalizing on ice melt in the Arctic caused by global warming. “Royal Dutch Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 preparing to explore for oil off Alaska’s north coast in the Arctic. U.S. taxpayers may end up paying almost as much to supervise future operations in the region.” [Bloomberg]

Extreme temperatures stress the power grid, and Con Edison recently took action to lower power voltage, known as a “brown out” in NYC, to prevent mass black outs. Of course, millions suffered from blackouts during brutal heat after a rare, heat-fueled derecho impacted the Washington area. [Reuters]

20 Responses to Top Ten Things Climate Change Is Making Worse Right Now

  1. fj says:

    This list will likely be updated to include legacy urban massive transit systems just like it includes the current electrical grid.

    The NYC subway system was nearly knocked out for a month or more by tropical storm Irene’s surge if it had been one foot or more which would have greatly impacted this city’s $4 billion per day economic activity perhaps even more than 9/11.

  2. Gail says:

    In a press teleconference Thursday Lester Brown announced that the USDA is underestimating the loss of this year’s US corn yield by half.

    One of the most alarming things I learned in terms of global food supply and prices (and the potential to make the Arab spring look like a picnic): “…the State of Iowa produces more grain than Canada. The State of Iowa also produces more soybeans than China. The State of Illinois is not far behind. The basic point is that this is exceptional agricultural land that we have in the U.S. Corn Belt.”

    He also makes the rather obvious point that when one or two major crops fail, the price rises and shortages ripple throughout the entire food supply. It seems everything has corn in it, on top of which it is in many cases interchangeable with other grains like rice and wheat.

    The ramifications for people who are already starving in the poorest countries and the “social unrest” that will result as prices skyrocket in recession-hit developed countries (a nice way of saying riots and other violence) will shortly follow.

  3. fj says:

    Yes, Lester Brown Plan B 4.0 and his advocacy provides terrific insight into the scale of the problem and what must be done; probably something on order of over $10 trillion in climate mitigation and adaptation build-out in this country alone.

  4. Merrelyn Emery says:

    A huge proportion of your processed food has corn syrup in it which is why so much American food tastes sweet. Using less corn syrup could be beneficial to health, and waistlines but I doubt they will limit that use, ME

  5. Larry says:

    I think we passed the point of no return in 2000 as far as severe climate change goes…I think lots of scientists agree but they figure why panic people even if they actually pay attention……… I am old I have lived a great life………….If your under 45 yrs of age good luck to you……..

  6. Paul Klinkman says:

    Add more asthma deaths. Higher temperatures seem to cook up more ozone, which nails sensitive species such as homo sapiens.

  7. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Not while there is a quid in it. I believe that the Japanese created high fructose corn syrup years ago, for animal feed, but stopped using it as it gave the animals fatty livers. Of course, humans with fatty livers, diabetes, heart disease and disseminated atherosclerosis, are tremendous business opportunities for the medical-industrial complex. A typical capitalist ‘win-win situation’.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The denialists decry climate truth-tellers as ‘alarmist’ not because the situation is not alarming. In fact it is truly terrifying, but the denialists are not themselves alarmed or terrified because they simply do not care what happens after they are dead, or how many billion ‘other people’, who they hate and fear, will die in the process. It is important, nay vital, to realise that many denialists wish the disaster to occur, some for perverted religious reasons, most out of sheer misanthropy.

  9. Karl says:

    Yes- bad times ahead on a one way road. And this is just the beginning… “The mother will change her face…”

  10. Ozonator says:

    Extremist Republicans and Christians’ freedom means free money from Chinese gamblers and none for their AGW disasters. For example, “Sheldon Adelson to lavish $71 million on GOP Super PACS” (, 6/17/12). And then, “AP source: Adelson giving $10 million to aid GOP” (By BETH FOUHY | Associated Press;, 6/29/12). With condolences, Sheldon sold them the AGW rope to hang themselves with. “The heaviest rain to hit Beijing in 61 years left at least 10 people dead over the weekend … the evacuation of at least 14,500 people … Up to 46 centimetres (over 18 inches) of rain fell in Beijing’s Fangshan district, the most rain to hit the city in a 14-hour period since records began in 1951” (“10 dead after record rain pounds Beijing”; AFP;, 7/22/12).

  11. Joan Savage says:

    I‘m seeing safe choices for “top ten” that focus our attention on documented events in North America. That skews attention away from some major events like the dreadful drought in Korea, “Worst in a Century,” that might or might not prove to be exacerbated by climate change.

  12. catman306 says:

    People who agree with you probably don’t watch enough TV.

  13. Grover Syck says:

    Mother nature does not like to be screwed over.

    She will “return the favor”.

    Nature does not discriminate, and shows no mercy. If we are eliminated as a species, to nature, it is “so what”.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Life is a reality TV show just waiting to be picked up by some network. Nothing is considered ‘real’ anymore until it appears on the box, which isn’t even a box any longer.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    All Adelson’s hard-earned loot (it is enervating relieving gambling addicts of their pittances)going to the Stormin’ Mormon means is that Romney must be serious about attacking Iran, or Adelson, a ‘one issue guy’, intends to see that it will be so.

  16. TropicDave173 says:

    Most of the denialists couldn’t understand the words you used…and won’t crawl out from underneather their tinfoil hats long enough to learn them.

  17. Susan Anderson says:

    Top 10 for now, including but not limited to …

  18. Tom Snell says:

    I think there’s still time to act to reduce the overall effect of climate change, but it has to be on the order of building the interstate system of highways or putting a man on the moon. Only a tiny fraction of the desert SW would be needed for enough solar farm to reduce our hydrocarbon needs dramatically. DC transmission lines can move that power north. Hydrogen can be produced from that same solar, then burned (water the only byproduct) for night use. This doesn’t include the huge potential for wind farms. We just need all of us to speak together and in very loud voices to our congress persons so our voices far outcry the moneyed interests. If we get serious, maybe the rest of the world will too!

  19. Rose says:

    We can all quit bitching and plant a tree.

  20. Sascha Tavere, France says:

    Dear Rebecca Leber and Ellie Sandmeyer,

    From a non-US perspective, may we substitute water shortages, soil erosion and subsidence for mountain climbing eventhough algae bloom en duststorms are a hint of these problems?