Health, Food and Water Impacts

Standard Page - 2006-01-06
Climate change will have disastrous impacts on agriculture and the food supply – in part due to the increase in <a href="http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/Templates/Planet3/Pages/DetailPage.aspx?id=235398">extreme weather</a> – but it will also have severe impacts on water supplies, health and the spread of disease. Rich and poor alike will be affected, but countries that are already struggling to provide food and water for their people will suffer the most.

Climate change will have disastrous impacts on agriculture and the food supply – in part due to the increase in extreme weather – but it will also have severe impacts on water supplies, health and the spread of disease. Rich and poor alike will be affected, but countries that are already struggling to provide food and water for their people will suffer the most.

A Buddhist monk, standing in front of Mt. Everest, raises up a handful of water in a gesture to symbolize the loss of water from the region. The villages in the Himalayas depend upon the glaciers for their water source.

Water

Disappearing glaciers, increasing droughts and salt-water intrusion will greatly worsen our world's current fresh water shortage. Billions of additional people will be at risk of water shortage due to climate change. Even moderate projections of climate change predict more than half of the global population will be living in countries experiencing significant water stress by 2025.

Food

Dead fish scattered in a flooded sugar cane field in Xiahaizi village, Leizhou, Guangdong province. Leizhou was hit by record-breaking rainfall due to August 2007 typhoon Pabuk.

Droughts, water shortages, rising sea levels, floods, heat waves and temperature shifts will damage food production in many parts of the world. Mid-continental areas, including vast parts of Asia and the US "grain belt", are likely to dry. In areas where dry land agriculture is dependent solely on rain, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, even a minimal increase in temperature would dramatically decrease food production.

The vulnerability of rice to temperature shifts is one extremely disturbing example of climate change's likely effect on food production. Rice is the staple food for more than half of the world's population, including China's – in other words, any small changes in temperature could have profound consequences.

More chillingly, as the world population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, even a small percentage drop in crop yield will translate into devastating famine and poverty for hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Health

Climate change increases the spread of disease in a number of ways. Perhaps most significantly, warmer temperatures will expand the range of tropical and sub-tropical infection-bearing pests, such as mosquitos that transmit malaria and dengue fever. Hundreds of millions more people will be at risk of malaria with global warming of about 2-3° C (3.6-5.4°F). Floods will also compromise water quality, spreading cholera and other diseases.

Learn more about:

Extreme Weather
Glacier Retreat in the Third Pole
Sea Level Rise
Habitat Loss and Species Extinction

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