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

 

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...

Meet the judges and see the winning design

Feature story | March 15, 2013 at 12:30

We're excited to announce the winner of our youth flag design competition, run in collaboration with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The winning flag design will be planted on the seabed at the North Pole next month!

News from Lifeboat Earth

Blog entry by David Seaton | March 14, 2013

A message written in debris from Hurricane Sandy reads 'Global Warming is Here' on the beach in a devastated area of New York The understanding of [human] warming and cooling influences on climate has improved since the Third...

At least 12.2 % of India’s reptiles threatened by extinction

Blog entry by Ignatius Thekaekara | February 20, 2013

Stay up-to-date on news related to the environment. In a recent study the Zoological Society of London and the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) species survival commission found that upto 19 % of the world's...

Kerala launches ambitious solar project

Blog entry by Ignatius Thekaekara | February 13, 2013

Stay up-to-date on news related to the environment. Kerala has become the first Indian state to create a very ambitious project to generate over 10 MW of solar power through over 10,000 roof-top solar power systems of one kw each.

PM creates climate change panel

Blog entry by Ignatius Thekaekara | February 5, 2013

Stay up-to-date on news related to the environment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has established a panel of secretaries from several different ministries along with the cabinet secretary to support the PM’s Council on Climate...

Point of No Return in pictures

Feature story | January 22, 2013 at 18:30

The world is quickly reaching a point of no return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. Continuing on the current course will make it difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the widespread and catastrophic impacts of climate...

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