This week, several interesting reports on global warming came to light. First, scientists at the Carnegie Institution released the first large-scale study of what the economic impact of global warming has been over the past 20 years. They measured annual yields of the six largest crops worldwide—those that account for 55 percent of non-meat calories consumed by humans and 70 percent of total animal feed—and found, unsurprisingly, that increasingly warmer temperatures led to lower crop yields. What is surprising is that the production numbers amounted to a net economic loss of $5 billion a year.
This revelation comes in the wake of reports showing that this has been the warmest winter on record for the Northern Hemisphere and that the thinning ice at the arctic poles may be on the verge of a tipping point that would trigger change in climates thousands of miles away (warmer winters in the U.S., for instance, as fewer arctic cold fronts roll through).
Yet in some ways, these reports couldn’t come at a better time. Though we’re more aware of the effects of our actions than ever before, Americans are still convinced that the results of global warming are far from imminent (according to a Gallup poll from last month: “A majority worries about climate changes, but thinks problems are a decade or more away”). Meanwhile, those who deny that there is any such problem, who insist that what the Earth is currently undergoing is part of a natural cycle, still have a prominent presence in the U.S. Studies like these go far in reminding us that global warming has tangible effects, that this is very much an issue of the present, and that our actions have consequences.
Still skeptical? Check back soon for our newest feature, “The Green Smackdown,” in which two PopSci editors go head to head to see who can live the greener lifestyle. Between catfights, they’ll teach you things you can do to lessen your overall carbon footprint. And we promise, it won’t hurt. —Abby Seiff