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

 

Bankrolling climate change – Corporate sponsorship at the climate summit

Blog entry by Sebastian Bock | November 18, 2013

It is that time of the year again. For the last two decades, every year in November or December. the world gets together to try to carve out a deal to prevent catastrophic climate change. After so many years, one might be tempted to...

UN climate chief Figueres calls coal industry's 'clean coal' bluff

Blog entry by Lauri Myllyvirta | November 18, 2013

In probably the most blatant attempt at subversion in the history of the international climate negotiations, the Polish economic ministry has teamed up with the coal industry to host a summit to promote coal during this year's top...

Do the math, fossil fuel investments add up to climate chaos

Blog entry by Kumi Naidoo | November 1, 2013

If it's wrong to wreck the planet, then it's wrong to profit from that wreckage. We are facing a planetary emergency: climate change threatens the world and our collective future. Business and political leaders know this yet they do...

World’s top climate scientists give us hope for a better future if we act now

Blog entry by Stephanie Tunmore | September 27, 2013 2 comments

Thirty crew members of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise are in prison in Russia, because they took peaceful action against oil drilling in the Arctic, intending to change the grim future we are constructing for ourselves and the...

10 reasons to take action to stop Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | September 25, 2013 11 comments

Right now, the 30 activists and crew from the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise are in custody in Murmansk . They have been under armed guard since last Thursday when the Russian authorities forced their way onto our ship...

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