Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions

Abstract

The ongoing emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) is triggering changes in many climate hazards that can impact humanity. We found traceable evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry. By 2100, the world’s population will be exposed concurrently to the equivalent of the largest magnitude in one of these hazards if emmisions are aggressively reduced, or three if they are not, with some tropical coastal areas facing up to six simultaneous hazards. These findings highlight the fact that GHG emissions pose a broad threat to humanity by intensifying multiple hazards to which humanity is vulnerable.

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Fig. 1: Observed impacts on humanity from climate hazards.
Fig. 2: Global map of cumulative climate hazards.
Fig. 3: Human population exposure to simultaneous climate hazards.

Data availability

Data on cumulative climate hazards are available in an interactive web app at https://maps.esri.com/MoraLab/CumulativeChange/index.html. Records of impacts and related references are provided at http://impactsofclimatechange.info. All other data and sources used in this study are available within the text.

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Acknowledgements

This study was made possible by a grant/cooperative agreement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Project R/IR-31, R/IR-25PD, which is sponsored by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, SOEST, under Institutional grant nos NA14OAR4170071 and NA09OAR4170060 from NOAA Office of Sea Grant, Department of Commerce. D.S. was supported by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program under UNIHI-SEAGRANT-JC-13-37. E.C.F. was supported by NOAA Fisheries award no. NA15NMF4520361. L.V.L. was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under grant no. DGE-1650441. A.G.F. was supported by the National Bioclimatology and Climate Change Program, USDA Forest Service, and the Department of Interior Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center award no. G16PG00037. E.H. was supported by the National Centre for Atmospheric Science and by the NERC REAL project (grant no. NE/N018591/1). Y.H. and N.H. were supported by ERTDF S-14, ERCA, Japan. W.K. was supported by BECC. C.M.L. acknowledges support from NASA award no. NNH16CT01C. We thank the ESRI’s Applications Prototype Lab for their help with creating the online mapping application. This paper was developed as part of the graduate course on Methods for Large-Scale Analyses in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

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C.M., D.S., E.C.F., J.L., M.B.K., W.M., C.Z.S., K.F., J.M., L.V.L., E.W.B., K.B., A.G.F., J.F.C, J.A.P. and C.L.H. collected data on observed impacts. C.M., N.H., E.H., Y.H., W.K., C.M.L., K.E. and J.S. provided projections of climate hazards. C.M. conducted the analysis of the cumulative impacts. All authors contributed to the writing and revision of the paper.

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Correspondence to Camilo Mora.

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Supplementary Note 1 - 2, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figure 1 -4, Supplementary Table 1

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Mora, C., Spirandelli, D., Franklin, E.C. et al. Broad threat to humanity from cumulative climate hazards intensified by greenhouse gas emissions. Nature Clim Change 8, 1062–1071 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0315-6

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