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

 

Oil spill devastates Alaska... again

Feature story | December 14, 2004 at 4:30

UNALASKA, United States — Fifteen years after the Exxon Valdez devastated the Alaskan coast, another oil spill is making headlines. Greenpeace is on the scene.

Climate change in India

Feature story | December 9, 2004 at 4:30

ORISSA, India — Right now, representatives of the world's governments are sitting in Argentina discussing climate change. But while they're talking, global warming is already distrupting people's lives. Here's a report from Greenpeace activist...

Uncharted waters for the Climate?

Feature story | December 6, 2004 at 4:30

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Politicians from around the world are gathering in Argentina to discuss climate change. We have unveiled our own 'Climate Ark' in the centre of Buenos Aires to illustrate the urgent need for action.

Kyoto saved: not the planet

Feature story | October 22, 2004 at 3:30

MOSCOW, Russian Federation — The Russian Parliament voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol today in a body blow to George W Bush's opposition to action on climate change.

Putin gives Kyoto green light

Feature story | September 30, 2004 at 3:30

MOSCOW, Russian Federation — George Bush's Government is out in the cold over Kyoto - and it's that old Cold War enemy, Russia, that's put it there. The Russian government today moved closer towards ratifying the crucial climate change treaty. ...

Extreme weather warnings

Feature story | September 9, 2004 at 3:30

Hurricane devastation in the US, flash floods in Japan and a UK village washed into the sea. As climate change gathers pace, devastation caused by extreme weather is becoming more common. Take a visual tour of storm and flood destruction.

Commit to an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

Feature story | August 28, 2004 at 3:30

BANGALORE, India — This year, on World Environment Day, you can do more than express token appreciation for the environment around you – you can commit to a toxic-free future, one that is healthy for you, safe for your family, and does not...

Welcome to our new Website.

Feature story | August 28, 2004 at 3:30

BANGALORE, India — On the 4th of August 2004, Greenpeace India takes a small step towards realizing its global potential by joining the ‘Greenpeace Planet’, an ambitious world wide web project that is designed to inspire our visitors to join us...

Athens disqualified from Green Olympics

Feature story | July 29, 2004 at 3:30

ATHENS, Greece — The Athens Olympics may boast gold, silver and bronze medals this summer - but green medals will be nowhere in sight despite Greece's promises of making the 2004 Olympics the greenest ever.

Greenpeace exposes the dirty face of Europe's energy subsidies

Feature story | July 29, 2004 at 3:30

BANGALORE, India — Despite innumerable statements about the dangers of climate change and the need for more renewable energy from a host of European institutions, blank cheques are still being written to underpin the industries at the heart of...

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