Photo courtesy of Andrew Davies via Flickr.
Considering climate change was recently named by top scientists as the number one threat to human civilization, topping nuclear war, artificial intelligence, and global pandemic, we may all be losers someday if the world can’t pull off a miraculous comeback.
But in the warm-ish but not yet boiling era known as the present, some are doing better than others, while a select few face immediate consequences and dire ones down the line.
Here’s who is benefiting most from climate change, and who will suffer the greatest, soonest.
Winners: Summer-loving bugs and birds
Though warming climate spells bad news for some species, for others a warming climate is just what they need to thrive. Other animals are adapting in unique ways to keep their species hoppin’ not because of climate change, but to researchers’ surprise, in spite of it.
Birds like the longtailed tit are living longer lives due to lengthened springs and hotter summers, and a lowered likelihood of dying in the cold. Meanwhile the albatross is building body strength and breeding success due to climate-driven intensified winds.
Losers: Cold-weather creatures and sea-dwellers
Few species are adaptable as these select winners. Those creatures that depend greatly on a specific type of habitat and are highly specialized in what they eat or where they live face the greatest danger, especially if they need the cold to survive.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, over 1,400 endangered species are threatened with extinction due to climate change.
Ice dwellers including polar bears, ringed seals, and Emperor penguins face danger due to shrinking sea ice, while Arctic foxes face increased competition from red foxes expanding into the warming tundra.
Water dwellers like staghorn coral and clownfish are hindered by the ocean’s rising acidification, and leatherback and hawksbill turtles are having reproduction issues due to warming sand temperatures.
Not all parts of the world are or will be be affected equally by climate change, and the same goes for people. In general, northern nations will do better than southern ones, and (as always) the rich will fare better than the poor.
Winners: Northern nationsRussia, which have been historically frigid, will find much of their land more habitable, fertile, and with higher real estate value than before.
It’s speculated that global warming will drive immigration and development north, which could make Canada a global superpower by 2050.
Others including Greenland, Norway, Finland and Iceland will also benefit from longer growing seasons, shipping, fishing and mineral extraction opportunities that come with a more moderate climate.
Already temperate countries like Germany may benefit as well from newly Mediterranean-like temperatures.
Losers: Coastal coutries
Locations that are prone to hot dry weather or are close to the coast may be among the most troubled places on Earth. The Carteret Islands, for example, may be inhabitable by the end of 2015 due to rising sea levels and infertile land, while in nations like Sudan, climate-fueled conflicts rage as a result of resource-depletion.
Many of the world’s most vital coastal cities will be at risk, from New York to Mumbai.
The map shows the severity of countries across the world by color. China, India, and Bangladesh are currently ranked as the top three most vulnerable countries. The United States is ranked 25 out of 233, at a fairly severe risk of climate-change related disaster.
A wetter and warmer world won’t be bad for everyone at first. There are plenty of industries that will make a pretty penny and others that will be in trouble, as demand shifts accordingly.
Winners: Businesses for the wet and the warm
As summer scorchers become the norm, air conditioning industries are experiencing a surge, and as melting ice causes water to rise, flood-proofing and other types of construction also prosper. Additionally, shipping companies that no longer need to travel around ice benefit from glacial melting.
We’ll also see industries that provide renewable energy turning more profit. In the short-term, agriculture may see increased yields, but the real winners will be the businesses that can make agriculture resistant to disease and bad weather.
Losers: Fossil fuel, food, and fun
The shift from fossil fuel to renewable energy has already begun, and will only continue as nations scramble to cut carbon emissions. Oil and coal companies have even stopped fighting the reality of global warming, and will likely have to leave many fossil fuel reserves in the ground instead of exploiting them for profit.
Livestock and agriculture will suffer from warming, too, meaning any business that sells food and other commodities will find themselves paying much more due to shortages — something we’re already seeing with products like chocolate.
Lastly, though tourism may make northern locations more attractive, many traditional warm-weather destinations will suffer either from drought or flooding. Cold-weather destinations like ski-resorts have had to rely on artificial snow for over a decade, an expensive necessity for the $12 billion industry.