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

 

Russia’s oil leaks – a forgotten disaster

Blog entry by Jon Burgwald | May 25, 2012

It’s late in the evening, but the sun has not yet settled here in Usinsk in the northernmost part of Russia where my Russian colleague and I arrived in a storming blizzard a few days ago. Located just at the border of the Arctic,...

Smart Energy Access report

Publication | May 15, 2012 at 16:07

Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity the world faces today. The energy shortage is most acute among India’s rural poor and in states such as Bihar, where more than 80% of the population still live in the rural...

Apple: the writing’s on the wall

Blog entry by Kat Clark | May 15, 2012

For over a month now, our supporters around the world have been helping us tell Apple that they want a clean iCloud. Apple’s executives have thus far ignored the hundreds of thousands of people asking them to use their influence for...

Apple: Think Different about your dirty energy

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | April 27, 2012

The Internet and social media are extraordinary engines of change helping to drive revolutions and positive social change. They’ve become central tools for how we bring pressure on polluters and governments. But if we are not...

We took it direct to their offices

Blog entry by Leila Deen, Greenpeace International | April 19, 2012

Today we took the ‘How Clean is your Cloud’ challenge directly to Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, the three companies which need to switch from dirty coal to clean, renewable power. This challenge follows yesterday’s launch of our...

How Clean is your Cloud - Apple responds

Blog entry by Gary Cook | April 18, 2012

Our new report “ How Clean is Your Cloud ” is out today - to show that the massive increase in Internet use is mainly being powered by dirty energy. Apple, Amazon and Microsoft all score badly in the report for relying on dirty coal...

Kadia, this is for you…

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | March 8, 2012

"My rice crops dried.. as if they were burnt with fire... I did not harvest rice the year before too... Last year the rain started well, but it suddenly stopped... Some days we can not find food for our children ..." these plaintive...

Canada: Climate Criminal

Blog entry by Rex Weyler | January 11, 2012

At the dawn of the 21st century a new political regime has transformed Canada from global hero – once standing up for peace, people, and nature – to global criminal, plunging into war, eroding civil rights, and destroying...

The true cost of coal

Image gallery | January 10, 2012

The Dirty Dozen

Blog entry by Caroline Chisholm | December 6, 2011

After demanding that governments listen to the people and not the polluters at the entrance to Durban Protea Hotel, our Kumi and co-head of the Climate campaign, Tzeporah Berman entered the WBCSD conference to meet and greet with...

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