Redefining Life: Climate Change’s Impact on Human Existence

Posted On 04 Jun 2024
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By: Katie Brenneman

Climate change is reshaping the way people live around the world. Communities in Toguro and Fiji, have already lost their villages due to rising sea levels and face an existential threat from high winds, storms, and temperatures. 

Global warming is driving natural disasters and worsening the impact of floods and wildfires. NASA scientists, who use climate models to track the impact of global warming on extreme weather, echo this sentiment. Using these models, scientists found that heat waves will last longer, wildfires will become more frequent, tropical cyclones will be more intense, and floods will become more likely. 

These issues present an existential threat to human existence and are likely to cause an upheaval of life on planet Earth. People who live in climate-threatened areas could be displaced by these changes and become climate refugees. This will increase strain on public services and may further entrench inequality. 

However, with serious proactive measures, we can combat rising temperatures and adapt to the new reality of human existence on planet Earth. This is crucial for the health and well-being of future generations and may alleviate the risk of climate-induced conflicts. 

Climate Migration and Refugees

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, estimates that an annual average of 21.5 million people have been displaced due to climate change since 2008. This number is only set to increase, as data from the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) estimates there will be over 1 billion climate refugees by 2050. 

While it’s hard to establish a causal link between climate-induced migration and violence, the burden on resources could spark conflict in future years. Put simply, many people displaced from their homes due to climate change may be forced to flee to poorly managed medium democracies with scarce resources. This is a clear recipe for disaster and may cause wars and violence as refugees seek shelter. 

The mass migration away from climate-affected areas will influence where people choose to live in the future, too. This will have a significant impact on society, as people will respond to push pressures such as:

  • Soil erosion;
  • Increased humidity, which worsens heat waves;
  • Natural disaster frequency; 
  • Resource abundance. 

Without proper oversight and international collaboration, this could quickly dissolve into a scramble for homes in areas relatively insulated against the pressures of climate change. In Canada, more people are looking to move to sustainable cities such as Calgary or Hamilton, where the weather is milder. 

Air Quality and Urban Life

Creating sustainable cities is one of the best ways to combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. Put simply, urban areas are more sustainable per capita than rural communities due to the increased walkability of neighbourhoods, the proximity of resources, and the superior economy of scale that cuts down emissions incurred by shipping and waste management. 

However, many people associate city living with poor air quality or respiratory issues and may elect to live away from cities. To combat this, more urban areas need to take proactive measures to combat the impact of poor air quality, which can cause: 

  • Short-term issues such as coughing and wheezing;
  • Sleep apnea;
  • Heart diseases;
  • Lung cancer.

Urban planners can counteract the impact of poor air quality by subsidizing air filters and addressing air pollution at the policy level. This approach has been championed in busy cities. According to the Transport for London website, this will cut harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 46% and ensure that areas outside the city are not adversely affected by poor air quality. 

Redefining Design

Urban areas will also need to become more resilient and sustainable in the climate-affected future. If major metropolitan areas are to survive rising temperatures, city planners will need to embrace sustainable design changes

  • Improved utility management;
  • Funding green construction projects;
  • Implementing sustainable transport alternatives, bicycle lanes, and EV buses
  • Rezoning areas for mixed-use;
  • Funding recycling schemes to reduce waste.

These urban planning principles can reduce waste, reduce carbon emissions, and support growing populations. Changing zoning policies to allow mixed-use provides social benefits, as citizens benefit from widened sidewalks and can reduce their carbon footprint if they can walk to work within the same block where they live. 

Investing in green building projects also supports the long-term economic growth of urban areas. Design changes such as green roofs can significantly reduce heating and cooling bills and, according to the U.S. General Services Administration, have an average return on investment of 224%.


t is clear that we will need no-nonsense plans to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Without robust action from governments across the globe, climate change will threaten human existence and cause mass migration away from climate-affected areas. Rather than waiting for higher temperatures and natural disasters to occur, government agencies and city planners should invest in climate-resilient home construction and put their weight behind initiatives to reduce emissions and protect vital climate sinks like peat bogs and rainforests worldwide.  


Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in business management, tech innovations, education, and sustainability-related content.

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