Climate change impacts
Impacts from climate change are happening now. Ecosystems and human communities are currently being affected. These impacts extend well beyond just an increase in temperature. They are happening in the United States, and across the globe. Multiple sectors of our our society, spanning across regional boundaries, are being affected. Already impacted are things that we depend upon and value: water, energy, transportation, wildlife, agriculture, ecosystems, and human health.
Across the country, changes to water resources are of critical concern. In some regions, particularly in the western United States, drought is an important factorconditions are critically affecting local communities. Less snow accumulation in the mountains is important in the West and Alaska where the snowpack stores water for later use. In the Midwest and northeastern states, the amount of heavy downpours has substantially increased over the past few decades. In many regions, floods and water quality problems are likely to be worse because of climate change.
Our food supply is dependent on climate and weather conditions. Although agricultural practices may be adaptable, changes like increased temperatures, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes create significant challenges for the farmers and ranchers who put the food on our tables.
Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.
Ecosystems are also being affected by the changes that are occurring: habitats are being modified, the timing of events such as flowering and egg laying are shifting, and species are changing their home ranges.
Changes are also occurring to the ocean. The ocean is absorbing about 30% of the carbon dioxide that is being released into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. As a result the ocean is becoming more acidic. Marine life is being affected by this oceanocean acidification. Along the coasts, higher sea levels causes these areas to be at a greater risk of erosion and storm surges.
This collection provides the teacher and their students the opportunity to explore some of the environmental changes already observed, from the Arctic to tropical regions. The Climate Literacy Principles developed by NOAA and its partners provides educators with a framework and guide to help direct the instructional use of these lesson plans and other resources. New reports are constantly being released by the multiple federal agencies tasked with studying and responding to climate change. The websites in the background section provide access to the latest scientific information available. In addition to these resources, NOAA offers teachers professional development opportunities (including the Climate Stewards Program) about climate and other topics.
Adapted from materials provided by Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States.