Impacts

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, dying coral reefs, rising sea levels, changing ecosystems and fatal heat waves.

And it is not only scientists that are witnessing these changes. From Inuit in the far north to islanders near the equator - people are already struggling with the impacts of climate change.

Extreme weather

Flooded village in southern France, close to a nuclear power station. Earlier in 2003 the same area experienced a long drought. Climate change means more extreme weather like flooding and droughts.

But all of this is only the beginning. We are already experiencing dangerous climate change…we need to act to avoid catastrophic climate change. While not all regional effects are yet known, here are some likely future effects if we allow current trends to continue:

Relatively likely and early effects of small to moderate warming

  • Sea level rise due to melting glaciers and the thermal expansion of the oceans as global temperature increases
  • Massive releases of greenhouse gases from melting permafrost and dying forests.
  • A high risk of more extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods. Already, the global incidence of drought has doubled over the past 30 years.
  • Severe impacts on a regional level. For example, in Europe, river flooding will increase over much of the continent, 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.
  • An increase in existing risks of species extinction and biodiversity loss.
  • The greatest impacts will be on the poorer countries least able to protect themselves from rising sea levels, 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 sheet 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 seven meters of sea-level rise, over some centuries; there is new evidence that the rate of ice discharge from parts of the Antarctic mean that it is also at risk of meltdown.
  • The Atlantic Gulf Stream current slowing, shifting or shutting down, having dramatic effects in Europe, and disrupting the global ocean circulation system;
  • Catastrophic releases of methane from the oceans leading to rapid increases in methane in the atmosphere and 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

 

From typhoon hit Philippines, a call for climate justice

Blog entry by Aaron Gray-Block | 11 December, 2014

Smashed houses, fallen trees and streets littered with debris greeted us when Greenpeace arrived in Dolores, Eastern Samar, on Tuesday after Typhoon Hagupit made a direct hit on the seaside town. Much of the region's crops had been...

Visiting Ground Zero of Typhoon Hagupit

Video | 10 December, 2014 at 19:15

As typhoon Hagupit made land fall in the Philippines, Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo - along with Philippine climate change commissioner Yeb Sano - visits affected communities calling on world leaders to act against climate change. ...

Nature does not negotiate: climate catastrophe is with us now!

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | 7 December, 2014 24 comments

As Typhoon Hagupit hits the Philippines, one of the biggest peacetime evacuations in history has been launched to prevent a repeat of the massive loss of life which devastated communities when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the same area...

Payback time for the big polluters?

Blog entry by Kristin Casper | 5 November, 2014

The 500,000 people who marched for the climate in New York and other major cities in September have passed the torch to the people in the Philippines. The People's Climate Walk is a 40-day, 1000 km journey from Manila to ground zero in...

Three ways the climate crisis is already being solved

Video | 21 October, 2014 at 17:45

The climate is in crisis and it affects us all. But we can take control of our future. By joining the growing movement for climate action, you and I can choose to be part of the solution.

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