Polar bears are often seen as the face of climate change, and with good reason: sea ice loss in the Arctic is putting their survival in question. Yet, with far-off furry faces being seen as the symbol, it is sometimes hard for people to believe that climate change will affect them personally.

The truth is, we’re already living with the effects of climate change, from extreme weather to invasive species. These changes are affecting our health, our safety and our livelihoods.

In this two-part series, discover 10 professions and industries that are already feeling the impact of climate change:

1. Farmers


California is entering its fifth year of historic drought, a consequence of the changing weather and climate patterns brought on by carbon pollution. The situation has become so dire that Governor Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent reduction in residential water use. Yet, as many places have reported, homeowners aren’t huge water users: California’s agriculture uses 80 percent of the state’s water, but it’s also a $46 billion industry in the state and employs millions of seasonal and permanent workers.


2. Fishermen


Our oceans absorb an enormous amount of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide- approximately 30%- and without that, the planet would be warming at a much faster rate. But the growing carbon input has raised the oceans’ pH to 8.1, a 25 increase in acidity over the last 200 years. That makes it hard for many creatures, especially shellfish, to survive.

Warmer waters themselves also have an impact. In 2003, Scotland's hottest year on record, hundreds of adult salmon died as rivers became too warm for them to be able to extract enough oxygen from the water.

Last winter, amid near record-breaking temperatures, sunfish and thresher sharks, more common to Baja California, were found in Alaska’s seas. As fish change their migration patterns due to climate, they could affect not only the communities they leave who depend on them for livelihoods, but also their new homes as they disrupt the ecosystem and local fisheries.


3. Insurance companies


Insurance companies survive on the premise that people are willing to pay a little now for the peace of mind that if something bad happens to them later, they’ll have the resources to take care of it. What makes this business plan work is that bad things don’t happen that often. But climate change is already wreaking havoc with homeowners insurance, flood insurance and other markets that protect people and their property from natural disasters.

The insurance industry paid out an estimated $41 billion after Hurricane Katrina and $18 billion after Superstorm Sandy. As climate change makes storms like these more common, it could put insurers on shaky financial ground, meaning rising premiums, potentially encouraging more people to forgo certain insurance all together. In economics, this is called a “death spiral,” where insurance gets so expensive that only the people at the most risk are willing to pay the high premiums.


4. Airlines


Every flight is at the mercy of the weather. As climate change increases the frequency and intensity of storms, that'll mean more flight cancellations: a huge problem for airlines, most of which already struggle to stay in the black thanks to the rising cost of fuel and other large economic forces.

A Federal Aviation Administration-funded study out of UC Berkeley found that flight delays and cancellations cost nearly $33 billion in 2007, with airlines absorbing $8.3 billion. More bad weather means these costs are likely to increase. Flight cancellations due to extreme winter weather cost flyers and airlines $2.4 billion between December 2014 and February 2015.


5. Tourism


If travel infrastructure is harmed by climate change, travel destinations will suffer.  With some of the world’s top travel destinations being located close to the coast, communities dependent on tourism may find themselves at risk of severe sea level rise. That could mean costly repairs or even relocation of hotels, restaurants and other coastal structures and communities. Those that stay put could have increased costs to add sand to beaches or to build levees to hold back floods. The World Tourism Organization acknowledges that climate change is already changing business as usual, and that it represents a real threat to small islands and communities that are reliant on tourism dollars such as the Maldives.

Emily Logan is Director of Acquisition and Retention at Care2, where her team works with member activists to spread the word about ThePetitionSite. In her time at Care2 she has also worked extensively with hundreds of nonprofit organizations to recruit activists and donors and build out their online strategies. Emily has a B.S. in journalism and a B.A. in music from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and currently lives in rainy Portland, Oregon with her cat, Ostrich. 

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