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

 

World’s top climate scientists give us hope for a better future if we act now

Blog entry by Stephanie Tunmore | September 27, 2013

Action at IPCC in Stockholm © Greenpeace / Christian Åslund Thirty crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are in prison in Russia, because they took peaceful action against oil drilling in the Arctic, intending to...

What is the IPCC saying and what does it mean?

Publication | September 27, 2013 at 16:54

Background briefing accompanying the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) AR5 WG1 launch.

Hope in the era of climate change

Blog entry by Siddhartha | September 13, 2013

This is not the place to dwell at length on climate change, but a few facts would bear mentioning. There are indications that by the end of the century we might witness the emergence of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of...

One positive step from the World Bank, many to follow

Blog entry by Paul Horsman and Shiwang Singh | July 3, 2013

Rampaging floods in Uttarakhand,India, Mindanao, along Europe's famed Danube, in large tracts of Canada, and in America's Midwest. Toxic smog in Singapore, Malaysia, and China's industrial heartland. Melting glaciers in the Alps,...

Floods in Uttarakhand: people and ecology suffer

Blog entry by Shashwat Raj and Paul Horseman | June 24, 2013

Today in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, we are witnessing one of the worst man-made calamities in recent times. A disastrous cycle of events has led to floods that have already killed many people and displaced many more from their...

Australian coal: the view from India

Feature story | April 21, 2013 at 4:54

My name is Arpana Udupa, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace India. I’m on board the Rainbow Warrior, travelling up the Queensland coast.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef threatened by coal mining

Blog entry by Arpana Udupa | April 20, 2013

Image: Darren Jew/Greenpeace I joined the Rainbow Warrior III in Townsville, a city in the north-eastern coast of Queensland, Australia. After catching up with my Australian counterparts on the campaign and tour, I found myself in a...

Wanted: Polar explorers. No experience required.

Blog entry by James Turner | April 4, 2013

In just over two weeks I will be standing on the frozen Arctic ocean, preparing to ski to the North Pole. I'll be wearing four layers of fleece and a special hat that someone knitted for me. In my pockets I'll carry some almond...

Happy birthday, Greenfreeze!

Blog entry by Paula Tejon Carbajal | March 26, 2013

Greenfreeze production line 12/08/1993. © Ali Paczensky / Greenpeace Do you have a fridge at home? Then, unless you live in North America, you probably have a Greenfreeze. And what is that? A fridge that uses a revolutionary...

If Kumi will...will you?

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | March 20, 2013

This year’s Earth Hour on March 23 is no ordinary Earth Hour. Climate change is being felt around the world - ravaging communities, destroying lives and livelihoods. We are running out of time, but we can still fix this. Energy...

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