History provides us with many lessons to illustrate the impact of climate change on human societies. These lessons start with the earliest well-documented example of a societal collapse—that of the Middle East’s Natufian communities roughly 10,000 years ago—which has been attributed to climatic changes.
Since then, climate change has regularly contributed to the collapse of complex human societies across the world. Notable examples of such collapses include the Akkadian Empire (the world’s first empire) of the Middle East, Egypt’s Old Kingdom (who constructed the pyramids), Central America’s Classic Mayan civilization, the USA’s first English colony, several Chinese dynasties, and the Late Bronze Age societies along the Mediterranean Sea.
Also, in Southern Africa, the fall of the Mapungubwe Kingdom has been attributed to crop failures and declining grazing lands due to regional droughts and warming cycles. Unlike the unavoidable natural climatic shifts that led to the historical societal collapses discussed above, we have brought today’s climatic change impacts upon
Because of our general lack of response in addressing the causes of climate change, thousands of people will suffer the consequences. Prominently, many parts of Africa are already seeing higher temperatures and longer droughts.
These conditions are compromising our quality of life by leading to more intense wildfires, increased incidences of malaria , increased crop failures, and increased competition for water. Many coastal areas are also seeing storms increasing in intensity and frequency, exposing people living near large rivers, deltas, and estuaries to more frequent flooding and storm surges.
Sea level rise is expected to leave many low-lying oceanic islands uninhabitable within a few decades. With all these impacts expected to increase the competition for space under an increasing human population, it would be wise for the world’s governments to start preparing for thousands of climate refugees that would need to be relocated in the near future
To combat climate change, politicians of several countries have started to enact laws to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and habitat destruction. Many industries are also hard at work developing “greener” technologies to enable us to live more sustainable lives.
Conservation biologists also play a crucial role in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change. In addition to highlighting the plight of the natural world to society at large, we could work towards reducing the loss of ecosystem services and preventing species extinctions.
To accomplish this task, we need to identify which species and ecosystems are most sensitive to climate change and develop strategies that will ensure the continued persistence of as many sensitive species and their habitats as possible.