12 Strange And Unexpected Side Effects Of Climate Change


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Will penguins take more selfies in warmer weather? Natalia Khalaman/Shutterstock

Climate change is a catalyst of chaos – sea levels are rising, ice caps are being destroyed, and more powerful natural disasters are on the prowl. Chances are, though, that you aren’t aware of plenty of things that this man-made phenomenon is going to exacerbate.

Let’s take a brief sojourn into the very near future to see what wackiness a warming world will deliver.


1 – You’ll get sick more, and maybe get diabetes

A recent survey showed that less than a quarter of the Americans that accept the science of climate change acknowledge that it’ll also make illnesses worse. Unfortunately, study after study has shown that if the environment is warmer, diseases will prosper.

Mosquitos carrying viruses will reach higher latitudes, contaminated water will become more common, those with pre-existing conditions will have a more strained immune system, air pollution will linger for longer, and those with allergies will suffer earlier and for lengthier periods of time.

People in warmer environments are also biologically unable to dispense of their blood sugar efficiently. So, for each degree of warming, an extra 100,000 Americans per year will get type 2 diabetes.


2 – Siberia’s going to turn into a gigantic, flammable trampoline

Boing, boing, boom. BBCExplore via YouTube

The frozen soil across much of the Siberian Arctic is full of microbes that, under warm and low-oxygen conditions, love producing methane by breaking down all the organic matter trapped there. As that part of the world is warming twice as fast as anywhere else, decompositions rates are kicking up a gear, and plenty of that methane – along with a fair amount of carbon dioxide – is escaping into the atmosphere.

A lot of it’s getting temporarily trapped in underground pockets of wet earth, though. This means that, at present, there are approximately 7,000 sites around Siberia where the soil is legitimately bouncy and, if you have a lighter and a death wish, exceedingly explosive.


3 – The North Pole will end up in Europe

Just to be clear, this refers to the geographic North Pole, not the magnetic one. (That one’ll be just fine.)

As you probably know, the world is spinning on a rotational axis, which goes from the top end of the planet to its bottom. However, thanks to humanity warming the world so quickly, a lot of ice is melting and, consequently, a lot of new water is moving around the world quite quickly.

This has upset the mass balance of Earth, and the planet is adjusting by changing the angle of its rotational axis. This means that the North Pole has been migrating eastwards towards continental Europe at an annual rate of about 10 centimeters (4 inches) since 2000, and eventually, it’ll end up in Paris.


4 – More volcanoes will erupt

Plenty of volcanoes, particularly in places like Iceland, are covered over by huge snowfields and glaciers. If you warm the region, the ice will melt, which will have two distinct effects. Firstly, some of this meltwater will mix with near-surface magma or even just hot rock, and cause sudden, violent explosions – the type that kill more people on volcanoes than any other.

Secondly, if enough of the ice melts, it will reduce the pressure on the underlying magma. This will allow bubbles to more easily form inside the magma, which increases the internal pressure of the magma chamber. This, unfortunately, makes it more likely that the volcano will erupt sooner rather than later.

5 – You might see a grolar or a pizzly


No, this isn’t a Pokémon or some mythical beast – it’s a grizzly-polar bear hybrid. As it turns out, the offspring of these two closely related floof balls are becoming increasingly common as the Arctic Sea Ice of the polar bears becomes increasingly scarce.

With their normal hunting ground effectively gone, polar bears are moving closer inland, where they appear to be having babies with the woodland roaming beasties. If, however, the father is a polar bear, the kids are known as “pizzly” bears.

6 – The economy’s going to tank

A study back in 2016 revealed that more powerful natural disasters, the increasing cost of fossil fuels, and the heat stress it will cause workers will cost the US $2 trillion in damages by 2030.


A new analysis points out that the world will take a $19 trillion hit by 2050 if the Paris agreement isn’t stuck too, partly for the same reasons and partly because it will miss out on using cheap, effective renewable energy to reduce unemployment numbers.

In short, if you want to save the world and get rich at the same time, ditch coal and grab yourself a solar panel.

7 – You’ll get crop circles on ice

No, Crop Circles on Ice isn’t a new talent show or Broadway production (sadly) – we’re referring to the strange zig-zag formations that are appearing in frozen lakes and sea ice complexes around the world.


They’re actually formed by a natural process known as finger rafting, where thin, smooth ice canopies drift over and under each other at the same time. A warmer world means thinner ice, which means these patterns will become increasingly common.

Ultimately, more people will think that aliens have moved on from confusing farmers to confusing Icelanders and penguins – and it’s all our fault.

8 – Wine will become more expensive and taste like crap

The warmer climate may be benefitting a few grape-growing regions of the world, like New Zealand, but for the most part, the crops simply can’t handle the pace of change. Chile, France, Argentina, and South Africa are all finding that their wine production rates are declining, and as another study shows, the quality of these wines are dropping too.


This issue was deemed so serious by governments around the world that a measure to stop it was included in the Paris agreement discussions back in 2015.

Murdered Malbec. Daniel Heighton/Shutterstock

9 – Plane rides will get bumpier

Turbulence can’t take down an aircraft these days, but no one enjoys it and it can still give you a nasty bump if it’s bad enough and you’re seatbelt is undone. Frustratingly, climate change is causing air currents to become quite severely disrupted, which will only make turbulence worse over time.


10 – You’ll be more likely to be murdered

Due to a lack of things like water and food, unstable nations will become more unstable as a result of rising temperatures. As studies have already shown, this will lead to more civil war, more violence, and more death.

If you think you’re safe in the US though, think again – the heat stress caused by climate change will put a heavy toll on the mental health of plenty of your fellow Americans, and a recent analysis predicts that this alone will trigger an extra 22,000 murders in the US by the end of the century. Eep.

11 – Beijing will disappear in a puff of smoke (or smog)


You’re probably aware that Beijing has a smog problem. The smog, which is generated by fossil fuel power plants and rather intense traffic, is actually getting worse for a very strange reason.

As the Arctic sea ice melts, it generates more evaporation, which is causing the air currents over central Asia to stall. This means the air over the Chinese capital city is becoming immobilized, and the smog stuck there takes a lot longer to be blown away.

Hello, is it me you're looking for? Timski/Shutterstock

12 – Climate change deniers will get more irritating


By now, it’s clear that the Trump administration is the most anti-scientific in living memory, with its officials rallying against the most basic of scientific facts – but what of the public? Sadly, a recent survey clearly reveals that no matter how scientifically literate a GOP-leaning citizen is, it will not affect their viewpoints on climate change, hurricanes, flooding cities, and so on.

Disturbingly, in some instances, the more learned they are, the less likely they are to support the science. So expect the new flat-Earthers to get even more irate as the world continues to warm.


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