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

 

Celebrating Orissa's choice of clean energy

Image | May 11, 2005 at 11:22

Celebrating Orissa's choice of clean energy at the famous Sun Temple of Konarak.

The Answer's Blowing In The Wind

Feature story | May 10, 2005 at 3:30

BHUBANESHWAR, India — In a historic win for the clean energy movement, the Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) has just thrown down the gauntlet for the giants of industry. Its directive, quite simply, compels GRIDCO and other...

List of Websites for the Power Sector

Publication | April 8, 2005 at 17:14

A list of online resources for information on the power sector.

Greenpeace petitions the OERC for Renewable Energy Uptake

Feature story | April 8, 2005 at 3:30

BHUBANESWAR, India — The Orissa Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) today heard the petition and arguments filed by Greenpeace, to ensure minimum of 10 percent of uptake of electricity from Renewable Energy sources in the state.

Feasibility of Renewable Energy Power in Orissa

Publication | April 5, 2005 at 3:30

Choose Positive Energy: Making it possible

Publication | April 5, 2005 at 3:30

Climate Change is Happening! Glacier Retreats is a fact!

Feature story | March 11, 2005 at 4:30

BANGALORE, India — Climate change is a hot topic these days. In more ways than one. For us at Greenpeace it gets particulary hot when the fossil-fuel corporation use paper-back fiction, fantasy advertising and cynical columnists to fib-off what...

Greenpeace Celebrates Adoption of Kyoto Protocol with ‘Solar Generation’

Feature story | February 16, 2005 at 4:30

BANGALORE, India — Greenpeace India joined the world in welcoming the Kyoto Protocol – an international agreement to cut down greenhouse gas emissions, with its youth members celebrating the day at the Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain, Bangalore...

Leaked documents revealing Blair's global warming betrayal

Publication | February 3, 2005 at 4:30

Blair's global warming betrayal

Feature story | February 3, 2005 at 4:30

LONDON, United Kingdom — Greenpeace accused Tony Blair of a 'betrayal' after leaked documents revealed the Prime Minister was boasting about global warming commitments in keynote speeches while his government was simultaneously trying to ditch...

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