The debate over how modern society's pollution emissions will effect tomorrow's world is hard to ignore. The long lag time between pollution and measurable results combined with unpredictable human factors make climate predictions a subjective matter. The federal agency that regulates environmental and public health, the Environmental Protection Agency, believes the world must reduce greenhouse emissions and pollutants, those caused by the burning of fossil fuels, or face some dangerous consequences.
Much of the debate over the effects of pollution stem from the inherent uncertainty in climate change science. Nobody can predict what pollution policies might look like in the next decade. Climate change models extrapolate data based on current trends and cannot give the future much weight. Essentially, the future effects of pollution require the predictor to make subjective assumptions about the future, which carries a great deal of variability.
The idea that greenhouse gas emissions will warm the earth significantly by 2100 is one of the most widely accepted effects of pollution, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Although life needs greenhouse gases to warm the earth, too much warmth disrupts the life cycle. Exactly how this extra warmth will effect life remains uncertain. Current information provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claim that global warming could wipe out 20 to 30 percent of earth's species.
The EPA reports that the sea level rose about five inches during the 20th century. The International Panel on Climate Change's models predict the ocean level will rise between 0.5 feet and two feet by the end of the 21st century. If the sea levels rise in accordance with IPCC estimates, a lot of current coast land will either erode away or fall below sea level.
How the effects of pollution will impact the public will vary from region to region. The EPA estimates that major cities like Chicago and Los Angeles will experience at least 25 percent more heatwaves. However, this heat could counteract the death from extreme cold spells. Parasites like mosquitoes thrive in warmer climates, which could mean more mosquito carried diseases like malaria. An increase in smog should also exacerbate respiratory illness.
Climate changes to the seasons could disrupt the world's supply of food, according to the EPA. While food production might benefit from shorter cold seasons, this comes with an increase in severe weather like floods and droughts that ruin entire crops. Soil will likely benefit from increased carbon dioxide levels, but extreme rainfall patterns could negate this benefit. More frequent droughts will erode soil into dust and reduce arable land.