Climate Change Wrecks All the Fun

Droughts and sea level rise don't motivate us to act, but what would life be without wine and chocolate?


It’s a question people like me agonize over 24/7: How do we talk about climate impacts so that people start to pay a bit more attention and  put their support behind solutions? (Hint: it’s not helping much to focus on distant “future generations” and to show all those pictures of far off polar bears—cute and impacted by climate change as they may be.)

Make it local, concrete, and personal say the messaging experts. But fear of drought or sea level rise in our backyard doesn’t seem to do the trick. And news about receding glaciers—even here in the Northwest—doesn’t touch people’s day to day lives either. Yet.

Indeed, despite evidence that people and places are already being impacted in serious ways by a changing climate, public opinion research shows us that the majority of Americans don’t necessarily think they themselves and their own families will experience the consequences of human-caused global warming. Canadians are more likely to think they’ll be impacted personally—but many only “moderately.”

Not me. Not my kids. Not in my lifetime. The problem is abstract. It’s perceived as far away in time and place.

But what if we told you to prepare to say goodbye over the next decades to some of the things that make life fun? (Or if not goodbye entirely, then hello to through-the-roof prices and severe shortages).

Wine, coffee, chocolate, baseball bats, salmon dinners, guacamole, fly fishing, ski vacations, snorkeling. I plan to be around for at least a few more decades (knock on wood), and these are a few of my favorite things. It brings it home for me. And even if 2052 sounds like a long way off, the next 40 years will represent the prime of my baby daughter’s life—not some nameless “future generation.”

Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Mic Check Radio has compiled a list of the top 100 effects of global warming, including stuff your friendly neighborhood environmentalist might not have warned you about.

Here’s some of their list (with two very important ones added by me at the top):

  • Say Goodbye to Coffee
    Director of sustainability for Starbucks, Jim Hanna, says climate change is threatening the world’s coffee supply, telling the Guardian newspaper, “What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road—if conditions continue as they are—is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain, which is the Arabica coffee bean.”  [CBS News]
  • Say Goodbye to Chocolate
    Chocolate lovers, embrace those chocoholic fixes now. A recent report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture predicts it could become a luxury product if West Africa’s temperatures rise thanks to climate change. If the world’s biggest prodcers—Ghana and the Ivory Coast—experience a 2.3 Celsius degree jump in temperature by 2050, the climate won’t be suitably cool enough to grow the crop. [Huffington Post]
  • Say Goodbye to French Wines
    Wacky temperatures and rain cycles brought on by global warming are threatening something very important: Wine. Scientists believe global warming will “shift viticultural regions toward the poles, cooler coastal zones and higher elevations.” What that means in regular language: Get ready to say bye-bye to French Bordeaux and hello to British champagne. [LA Times]
  • Say Goodbye to Light and Dry Wines
    Warmer temperatures mean grapes in California and France develop their sugars too quickly, well before their other flavors. As a result, growers are forced to either a) leave the grapes on the vines longer, which dramatically raises the alcoholic content of the fruit or b) pick the grapes too soon and make overly sweet wine that tastes like jam. [Washington Post]
  • Say Goodbye to Pinot Noir
    The reason you adore pinot noir is that it comes from a notoriously temperamental thin-skinned grape that thrives in cool climates. Warmer temperatures are already damaging the pinots from Oregon, “baking away” the grape’s berry flavors. [Bloomberg]
  • Say Goodbye to Baseball
    The future of the ash tree—from which all baseball bats are made—is in danger of disappearing, thanks to a combination of killer beetles and global warming. [NY Times]
  • Say Goodbye to Christmas Trees
    The Pine Bark Beetle, which feeds on and kills pine trees, used to be held in control by cold winter temperatures. Now the species is thriving and killing off entire forests in British Columbia, unchecked. [Seattle Post Intelligencer]
  • Say Goodbye to the Beautiful Alaska Vacation
    Warmer weather allowed Spruce Bark Beetles to live longer, hardier lives in the forests of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, where they killed off a section of spruce forest the size of Connecticut. [Alaska Science Forum]
  • Say Goodbye to Fly Fishing
    As water temperatures continue to rise, researchers say rainbow trout, “already at the southern limits” of their temperature ranges in the Appalachian mountains, could disappear there over the next century. [Softpedia]
  • Say Goodbye to Ski Competitions
    Unusually warmer winters caused the International Ski Federation to cancel last year’s Alpine skiing World Cup and opening races in Sölden, Austria. Skiers are also hard-pressed now to find places for year-round training. Olympic gold medalist Anja Paerson: “Of course we’re all very worried about the future of our sport. Every year we have more trouble finding places to train.” [NY Times]
  • Say Goodbye to Ski Vacations
    Slopes on the East Coast last year closed months ahead of time due to warmer weather, some losing as much as a third of their season. [Washington Post]
  • Say Hello to Really Tacky Fake Ski Vacations
    Weiner Air Force and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey are building a year-round ski resort in Texas, with “wet, white Astroturf with bristles” standing in for snow to make up for all the closed resorts around the country. [WSJ]
  • Say Goodbye to That Snorkeling Vacation
    The elkhorn coral which used to line the floor of the Caribbean are nearly gone, “victims of pollution, warmer water and acidification from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide seeping into oceans.” [Denver Post]
  • Say Goodbye to That Tropical Island Vacation
    Indonesia’s environment minister announced this year that scientific studies estimate about 2,000 of the country’s lush tropical islands could disappear by 2030 due to rising sea levels. [ABC News]
  • Say Goodbye to Cool Cultural Landmarks
    The World Monuments Fund recently added “global warming” as a threat in their list of the top 100 threatened cultural landmarks. “On Herschel Island, Canada, melting permafrost threatens ancient Inuit sites and a historic whaling town. In Chinguetti, Mauritania, the desert is encroaching on an ancient mosque. In Antarctica, a hut once used by British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott has survived almost a century of freezing conditions but is now in danger of being engulfed by increasingly heavy snows.” [AP]
  • Say Goodbye to Salmon Dinners
    Get ready for a lot more chicken dinners: Wild pacific salmon have already vanished from 40 percent of their traditional habitats in the Northwest and the NRDC warns warmer temperatures are going to erase 41 percent of their habitat by 2090. [ENS]
  • Say Goodbye to Lobster Dinners
    Lobsters thrive in the chilly waters of New England, but recent numbers show that as those waters have warmed up, “the big-clawed American lobster—prized for its delicate, sweet flesh—has been withering at an alarming rate from New York state to Massachusetts.” [AP]
  • Say Goodbye to Guacamole
    Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory predict hotter temps will cause a 40 percent drop in California’s avocado production over the next 40 years. [Lawrence Livermore National Lab]
  • Say Goodbye to Mixed Nuts
    Guess you’ll have to start eating pretzels at the bar instead: Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory predict hotter temps will cause a 20 percent drop in California’s almond and walnut crops over the next 40 years. [Science Daily]
  • Say Goodbye to French Fries
    Scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research say warmer temperatures are killing off wild relatives of potato and peanut plants, “threatening a valuable source of genes necessary to help these food crops fight pests and drought.” [AP]
  • Say Hello to More Mosquitoes
    Get ready for more mosquitoes. Mosquitoes like to live in drains and sewer puddles. During long dry spells (brought on by higher temperatures) these nasty, stagnant pools become a vital source of water for thirsty birds … which provide a tasty feast for the resident mosquitoes. At the same time, these dry spells “reduce the populations of dragonflies, lacewings, and frogs that eat the mosquitoes.” [Washington Post]
  • Say Goodbye to Your Own Money
    A report done last year by the British government showed global warming could cause a Global Great Depression, costing the world up to 20 percent of its annual Global Domestic Product. [Washington Post]
  • Say Goodbye to Everybody’s Money
    A study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University found that ignoring global warming would end up costing $20 trillion by 2100. [Tufts]

Click here to find all 100 impacts, including more “fun” stuff we’ll miss as well as health problems we may face and wildlife that’s in trouble—yes, including those poor polar bears.

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  1. Morgan Ahouse says:

    Thanks bringing attention to this problem.

    I totally get the point of making impacts very personal, yet one of the criticisms of climate and enviro policy more generally is that we exaggerate consequences to the point of questionable believability. The reference headings here dance with that line. I haven’t had enough coffee yet this morning to say more.

    • gretchen stewart says:

      Nice to see you in print Morgan and still at the top of the environmental game.

  2. Anna Fahey says:

    Good point, Morgan. I agree. This occurred to me too, but I didn’t change CAP’s headings. Exaggeration—or even the perception that you’re exaggerating—can undoubtedly backfire (and has in the past). But part of me is also tired of sugar coating impacts—and in particular, making some serious consequences sound far off in time. I mean, in some ways this is all a bit tongue in cheek, right? (In a twisted way). When my daughter is dealing with water shortages and food insecurity 40 years from now, the last thing she’ll be worried about is a snorkeling vacation or fancy French wine.

  3. Gail Zawacki says:

    I agree, it’s time to make people aware that climate change is happening now, not in the future, and the consequences are going to affect every one of us in unpredictable but certainly extremely unpleasant ways.

    I didn’t take it seriously myself until I noticed, in the summer of 2008, that all the leaves on the trees around my house in New Jersey had turned completely limp. I never saw anything like it, and, as they continued to exhibit signs of distress, I concluded that trees were dying from long-term disruptions to precipitation from climate change.

    Since I love trees that got me active. Ironically, evidence that has materialized since then (trees and shrubs that are being watered but still have symptoms of decline) has convinced me that in fact it isn’t climate change (yet) that is killing trees, but rather CO’s companion emissions – the precursors to ozone.

    Frankly I think the climate activists should start talking about this elephant in the room because it doesn’t take too much imagination to understand that we simply can’t survive without vegetation. It’s quite clear from decades of controlled fumigation experiments that annual crop yield and nutritive quality are substantially reduced by exposure to air pollution.

    Even people addicted to electronic toys and driving single-passenger cars need to eat. Putting it in terms of the availability of food might be a better motivator than images of polar bears on melting ice.

  4. Georgie Bright Kunkel says:

    I could do without alcohol drinks and ski vacations but I could not do without chocolate which produces the chemistry of being in love.
    Yes, it boosts the endorphins. And with my S.A.D. each fall and winter chocolate is a great uplift.

  5. Callie Jordan says:

    I see you did mention peanuts, but only in reference to French fries — haven’t we already had a problem with peanut butter prices due to a bad harvest??

    and I’m just wondering if I read this wrong, but who exactly is a treat for whom?

    “these nasty, stagnant pools become a vital source of water for thirsty birds … which provide a tasty feast for the resident mosquitoes”

    Those are gonna big some BIG mosquitoes!!

  6. Meyer says:

    With freshwater and ocean acidification (see ) it won’t be just our bottle of Merlot that will be at risk. The main dish too. How much of the world’s food supplies come the sea and freshwater lakes and rivers?

  7. Anna Fahey says:

    I just ran across another article about climate threats to coffee crops It’s happening now. This is from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

    Climate change is threatening coffee crops in virtually every major coffee producing region of the world. Higher temperatures, long droughts punctuated by intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases—all of which are associated with climate change—have reduced coffee supplies dramatically in recent years.

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