Climate change

The Earth’s climate is changing rapidly. These changes will have a direct impact on life, the availability of water and food.

Global warming is going to dominate our planet’s climate for a long time into the future, as described in the article “predictions”.

The global temperature increases are likely to exceed 5-10°C by the end of the century, following the most conservative estimates.

An important side effect of global warming is the increased acidity of our oceans. This gradual change is lethal for marine life and it will impact the availability of fish stocks in future. Sea water acidity also affects CO2-absorbing micro-organisms, therefore diminishing the oceans’ ability to capture carbon.

Extreme weather events are likely to be frequent. Global warming is an uneven process and weather extremes will be different throughout the planet. For example, whilst southern Europe is likely to be affected by periods of drought and heat-waves, northern Europe’s weather will be more characteristically wet, with frequent flood events. The disruption of existing heat flows in the north Atlantic means that northern Europe will experience a general cooling and the overcast and wet British summer of 2007 will be a more frequent occurrence.

Rising sea levels will result in a gradual displacement of coastal populations. This can amount to as much as 200 million people. There is a high risk of flooding of major cities of the world given a small increase in global temperatures. The effect is already felt in the most vulnerable islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean.

The disruption in the water cycle, with extremes of droughts and floods depending on latitude, will cause problems of availability of freshwater to millions of people. Agricultural irrigation will also be affected. Crop yields will also suffer from extremes of heat in the poorest regions of the world, therefore causing higher incidences of famine.

Climate change will disrupt the supplies of food and water for a significant percentage of the Earth’s population.

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