Climate change isn't just about rising temperatures—it's a wave that touches every shore, including our own. The social impacts of climate change are vast, affecting everything from our access to clean water and food supplies, to our exposure to extreme weather events. 

How the climate impacts our society

The climate, and therefore climate change, impacts the world in several areas. Specifically, climate change has the potential to worsen to all of the following:

  • Extreme weather events

  • Food and water scarcity

  • Poverty, displacement, and economic challenges

  • Biodiversity declines

  • Health issues

  • Human conflict

The good news is, there are actions we can all take - at the global, local, and personal level - that can solve for many of these challenges.

Let's dive in.

Extreme weather events 

The problem

From hurricanes and floods to wildfires and droughts, extreme weather events are becoming more common and intense. These events can destroy homes, damage infrastructure, and contaminate water supplies with salt or chemical pollutants.

Extreme weather events are not just a problem in developing countries. In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria relocated hundreds of people and caused billions of dollars in damage. They also exposed the vulnerability of US territories like Puerto Rico — which was already struggling economically — to climate change.

Even the mainland of the United States can be affected; just consider the Great Texas Freeze of 2021, which caused billions in damages, and far more tragically, cost over 200 American's their lives.


In the U.S, the federal government has already passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a bipartisan deal that in part funds the development of more climate resilient infrastructure.

On the local level, a number of states and cities are implementing climate resiliency plans. New York, for example, is building flood-defending coastal resiliency infrastructure to protect low-lying neighborhoods.

Voting yes for this type of action, and for the representatives in government that promise to support them, is a key way you can help. You might also consider donating to worthy charities that help people in the aftermath of these events.

Access to food and water 

The problem

Climate change can affect food supplies and access to clean water. Many agricultural products such as corn, wheat, and cotton are sensitive to changes in temperature. The World Bank reports that rising temperatures and changing weather patterns could reduce maize yields by up to 30% in some countries.

Food production can also be affected by extreme weather events; the Texas Freeze discussed above also resulted in a $600m loss in crops and livestock, for example.

As for water scarcity, the UN estimates that 2 billion people worldwide currently lack access to safe drinking water. If we stand pat, this number will grow as seawater levels rise, ice sheets melt, and disease spreads due to higher temperatures (think malaria or dengue).


The good news is that we have many paths forward to deal with concerns about food and water scarcity. At the individual level, it mostly comes down to making informed choices and trying to conserve as much as possible.

Did you know that a study showed that vegan diets lead to a "75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution and land use than meat-rich ones"? We're not saying everyone needs to go vegan, but even just adding a few plant-based meals into your repertoire can have a big impact over time.

It's also important that you cut down on food waste wherever possible. In the U.S, 149 billion meals' worth of food goes to landfills each year. Think twice before throwing something out, and compost if that's available to you.

For water, focus on water conservation. Some things you could do include:

  • User water-efficient appliances

  • Fix leaks

  • Take shorter showers

  • Plant drought-resistant, water-wise plants

You can go the extra mile and find ways to support the wetlands as well. Not only are the wetlands excellent carbon sinks, they can defend against storms and floods.

Poverty, displacement, and economic challenges

The problem

Climate change can also have a serious impact on economic stability. Climate crises often cost millions, if not billions of dollars to recover from. They displace millions of people (30 million in 2020 alone). The food and water challenges discussed above can hurt people working in agriculture, wiping out incomes and placing incredible strains on families and communities.

Adding to the problem is the fact that the effects of climate change are not evenly distributed around the globe. Social inequalities are often exacerbated by climate change. Poorer countries and communities that have contributed least to global warming are often the most vulnerable to its impacts. They often lack the infrastructure or financial resources to adapt to changing conditions.

This leads to what has been called “climate injustice” — in which people in poorer countries suffer more from climate change, even though they may have contributed less to the problem.


A number of organizations work to both prevent these challenges, as well as mitigate the effects of them. For instance, the IMF and World Bank work predominantly with poorer countries to develop human capital and build overall economic capacity. There are also several charities and non-profit groups that do the same, like Engineers Without Borders and End Poverty Now.

Supporting these types institutions by promoting awareness and donating time and money can all make a difference.



The problem

It’s not just humans who are affected from a changing climate. Climate change is having an impact on wildlife around the world, too:

  • Drought causes species to compete for limited resources

  • Rising sea levels encroach upon animal habitats

  • Coral reefs bleach due to increased ocean acidity

  • Animals may have difficulty adapting quickly enough to keep pace with rapidly changing temperatures

  • Pollinator populations are declining, posing significant risk to global food security


The Convention on Biological Diversity has several great recommendations for ways you can have a positive impact on biodiversity. Some our favorites include:

  • Plant native trees and plants

  • Shop at companies committed to ethical standards

  • Conserve food, water, and energy

  • Support sustainable agriculture with your spending habits

  • Help save the bees!

Health issues

The problem

Climate change can increase the risk of respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and numerous other health problems. It can also lead to food shortages and malnutrition. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 250,000 people lose their lives every year because of climate change-related issues .

Climate change is also having an impact on mental health, with some studies showing that people who have suffered from extreme weather events are more likely to develop depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


While tackling these challenges can seem daunting, there are practical things you can do to help. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Reduce your use of harmful products like gasoline, harmful nail polish, and plastic bottles

  • Support and promote local food production

  • Support clean energy initiatives

Human Conflict

The problem

Climate change is a security threat multiplier whose full impacts are still not understood. Climate change could increase global conflict by making it harder for people to access food and clean water and exacerbating poverty and inequality. 

Various aspects of climate change – such as increased heat, precipitation, or sea levels rising – could impact social stability across the globe.

The risk of conflict increases most in areas where there is already political instability and weak governance. In these areas, droughts or floods can easily lead to protests or even armed conflict. 


The best way to lower the likelihood of climate change-caused conflicts is for us to adopt the solutions we've previously discussed. By doing so, we can proactively take away the most common triggers of conflict, such as poverty or food shortages.

The impact of climate change on our future

Climate change is already having a significant effect on human health and well-being. That means that we need urgent action now if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in the future.

We hope this article was a good start. If you are interested in learning more, the following resources are a great place to start.

And if you're not already an Aspiration customer, consider signing up for the Aspiration Spend and Save account. One of the most powerful ways an individual can fight against climate change is be keeping their hard-earned money out of the hands of those who participate in planet-harming activities like fossil fuel production and exploration.

By managing your money with us, you never have to worry about funding fossil fuels, and there are optional benefits you can select to make even more of an impact, such as rounding up your purchases to fund the planting of trees.

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