According to a leaked report that will be given by scientists from the International Panel on Climate Change at a meeting next month in Belgium, "hundreds of millions of Africans and tens of millions of Latin Americans who now have water will be short of it in less than 20 years. By 2050, more than a billion people in Asia could face water shortages" as a result of anthropogenic global climate change.
The report predicts that polar bears will be extirpated in the wild by 2050, and that half of Europe's plant species could be threatened, endangered, or extinct by 2100.
The toll on the human population is likely to be severe. Conditions such as malnutrition and diarrhea are likely to be greatly worsened. Hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires will ratchet up the economic cost. The poor, especially in coastal areas, will --as always -- be the hardest hit.
Although it's clear that some negative effects of global warming are already occurring and that more are inevitable because the effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is delayed by years or even decades, I still hold out some hope.
Based on what I understand of global climate change, its effects can be halted -- or at least slowed down. This could make all the difference. Things everybody can do: buy energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs, lower your thermostat (and use clock thermostats), increase the insulation in your house, get window and door quilts, recycle, buy a hybrid car (if you can), ride your bicycle (or walk), use mass transit when possible, call your power company and ask them to use renewable energy, vote for leaders who take the issue seriously, write your congressman, plant lots of trees, call radio shows, write letters to the editor, insist that the U.S. freeze its carbon dioxide emissions and join international efforts to reduce global warming, insist that the U.S. reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, insist on raising fuel efficiency standards, and educate yourself and others about the crisis.
I've done the ones I can afford, although I need to start riding my bike to work more often, now that I'm over my month-long sickness and the weather has begun to improve. What are your plans for reducing your carbon footprint?