‘Scary’: Expansive UH study concludes threat to humanity from climate change ‘much larger’ than previously thought

‘How many wake-up calls will it take to wake up?’
(Image: UH Sea Grant King Tides Project)
(Image: UH Sea Grant King Tides Project)
Updated: Nov. 19, 2018 at 4:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Climate change is often described as one problem, but it’s actually many.

Hotter temperatures are melting glaciers, causing sea levels to rise, triggering droughts, increasing the risk for more frequent and stronger cyclones, and making wildfires more likely, scientists say.

All those climate hazards add up.

And an expansive new report from a team of 23 scientists — led by a University of Hawaii professor — predicts that together those hazards mean that society “faces a much larger threat from climate change than previous studies have suggested.”

“Overall, our analysis shows that ongoing climate change will pose a heightened threat to humanity that will be greatly aggravated if substantial and timely reductions of greenhouse gas emissions are not achieved," the scientists concluded, while urging society to take steps now to prevent the worst-case scenarios of climate change.

(Image: Mora Lab)
(Image: Mora Lab)

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is one of the most comprehensive yet looking at the various impacts to human from a warming world.

For the report, the team of scientists analyzed thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers and found 467 ways in which human health, food, water, economy, infrastructure, and security have already been impacted by climactic changes.

Those climate changes range from drought to floods and from sea level rise to wildfires.

The 467 ways that humans are being impacted? They include everything from deaths to impacts on the food supply, infrastructure and the economy. To see a full list of those impacts, click here.

“Greenhouse gas emissions pose a broad threat to humanity by simultaneously intensifying many hazards that have proven harmful in the past,” said lead author Camilo Mora, an associate professor of geography at UH-Manoa.

“Further, we predict that by 2100 the number of hazards occurring concurrently will increase, making it even more difficult for people to cope.”

To help populations understand the scope of the issues climate change poses, the scientists developed a web application that allows users to see the cumulative number of climate hazards any spot on Earth faces in 2100.

To see the web application, click here.

The application, for example, predicts that Hawaii will see four major hazards by 2100 if moderate to strong efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases aren’t realized: Sea level rise, ocean changes, storms and warming.

“The evidence of climate change impacting humanity is abundant, loud and clear,” said assistant UH Professor Daniele Spirandelli and co-author of the study. “Clearly, the outstanding question is, how many wake-up calls will it take to wake up?”

She added that humanity is “headed down a dangerous path.”

“It’s going to be a dangerous world in the future. We’re starting a preview of this now,” she said, pointing to the unprecedented California Camp Fire that’s left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless. “We can’t expect our abilities to be able to response and recover if we’re going to have these types of events and ongoing perpetual types of climate hazards. The shocks will be too much for humanity. It is scary.”

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On Oahu’s North Shore, a summer of big swells and disappearing beaches

Study: One third of Hawaii’s coasts are moderately or highly vulnerable to rising seas

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