No one knows how much warming is "safe". What we do know is that climate change is already harming people and ecosystems. Its reality can be seen in melting glaciers, disintegrating polar ice, thawing permafrost, changing monsoon patterns, rising sea levels, changing ecosystems and fatal heat waves.

Scientists are not the only ones talking about these changes. From the apple growers in Himachal to the farmers in Vidharbha and those living in disappearing islands in the Sunderbans are already struggling with the impacts of climate change.

But this is just the beginning. We need to act to avoid catastrophic climate change. While not all regional effects are known yet, here are some likely future effects if we allow current trends to continue.

Relatively likely and early effects of small to moderate warming:

  • Rise in sea level due to melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of the oceans as global temperature increases.

  • Massive release of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and dying forests.

  • A high risk of more extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods. The global incidence of drought has already doubled over the past 30 years.

  • Severe regional impacts. Example: In Europe river flooding will increase and in coastal areas the risk of flooding, erosion and wetland loss will increase substantially.

  • Natural systems, including glaciers, coral reefs, mangroves, Arctic ecosystems, alpine ecosystems, Boreal forests, tropical forests, prairie wetlands and native grasslands, will be severely threatened.

  •  The existing risks of species extinction and biodiversity loss will increase.

  • The greatest impacts will be on the poorer countries least able to protect themselves from rising sea levels. There will be spread of disease and declines in agricultural production in the developing countries of Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

  •  At all scales of climate change, developing countries will suffer the most.

Longer term catastrophic effects if warming continues:

  • Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting. Unless checked, warming from emissions may trigger the irreversible meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet in the coming decades, which would add up to a seven meters rise in sea-level over some centuries. New evidence showing the rate of ice discharge from parts of the Antarctic means that it is also facing a risk of meltdown.

  • The slowing, shifting or shutting down of the Atlantic Gulf stream current is having dramatic effects in Europe, disrupting the global ocean circulation system.

  • Catastrophic releases of methane from the oceans are leading to rapid increases in methane in the atmosphere and the consequent warming.

Never before has humanity been forced to grapple with such an immense environmental crisis. If we do not take urgent and immediate action to stop global warming, the damage could become irreversible.

The latest updates

 

Meanwhile in front of the India Gate

Image | July 21, 2009 at 12:19

Meanwhile in front of the India Gate, refugees from Cyclone Aila, send out a message to US envoy, Hillary Clinton - "it's about survival". Climate change will affect the poorest the worst!

A banner is held up with the message loud

Image | July 21, 2009 at 10:56

A banner is held up with the message loud and clear. Climate Change = Water Crisis!

Portraits are displayed of climate refugees

Image | July 21, 2009 at 3:30

Portraits are displayed of climate refugees from the cyclone hit Sunderbans, bearing testimony to the unpredictability and dangers global warming that are already being felt in coastal India.

Activists arrange hundreds of pots of water

Image | July 20, 2009 at 15:54

Activists arrange hundreds of pots of water outside the RBI, highlighting the water crisis at hand due to climate change.

Greenpeace activists on their way to deposit

Image | July 20, 2009 at 15:50

Greenpeace activists on their way to deposit water at the RBI. Climate change will soon cause a water crisis in this country if the government does not act now!

Greenpeace activists try and deposit water

Image | July 20, 2009 at 11:55

Greenpeace activists try and deposit water in the RBI to highlight one of the impacts of climate change - Water scarcity.

Mumbai kids to Hillary “SOS - Stop Climate Change”

Feature story | July 18, 2009 at 3:30

MUMBAI, India — Children from the Bal Jivan Trust, who were visiting the Greenpeace Climate Rescue Station on Carter Road today, had a message for Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, United States of America, asking that the world’s biggest...

Climate Change = Water Crisis

Feature story | July 17, 2009 at 3:30

DELHI, India — 25 Greenpeace activists queued up outside the Reserve Bank of India to deposit 100’s of pots of water for safe keeping to highlight the issue of the growing water crisis fuelled by climate change. The activists unfurled a banner...

At the climate rescue station on Carter Road

Image | July 16, 2009 at 3:30

At the climate rescue station on Carter Road, Mumbai.

It’s anomaly reigning

Feature story | June 24, 2009 at 3:30

No doubt the monsoons are changing with the altering weather patterns. There is growing evidence suggesting that climate change is playing a significant role in altering the Indian monsoon patterns. What is not clear is how the precipitation...

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