The Challenge of Climate Change
How will global warming and climate change affect the Earth?
A variety of impacts are predicted worldwide as the earth's climate changes, the social, environmental and economic implications of this could be huge.
Sea Level Change: Globally, sea level is predicted to rise by over 40 centimetres by the 2080s (mainly due to the thermal expansion of the oceans as temperatures rise and also due to glacial retreat), threatening many low lying areas.
Flooding: Flooding events are likely to increase in frequency and severity, (low lying areas such as Southern and South East Asia are most likely to be at risk).
Food Shortages: As temperatures increase and conditions of drought become more prevalent, areas such as Africa, the Middle East and India are expected to experience significant reductions in cereal yields.
Disease: Warmer temperatures will enable organisms such as Malarial mosquitoes to expand their range - spreading to higher latitudes and higher altitudes. As a result, it is estimated that an additional 290 million people could be exposed to malaria by the 2080s, with China and Central Asia likely to see the largest increase in risk. Increases in food and water-related infections could also occur, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. Warmer temperatures, reduced water supplies, and proliferating micro-organisms would lead to a higher incidence of cholera, salmonellosis, and other such infections.
Water shortages: In some areas, water resources for drinking and irrigation will be affected. Shortages are likely to be due primarily to reduced rainfall and also the salination of ground water in coastal areas, as sea levels rise.
Loss of Biodiversity: Tropical Rainforests: By the 2070s, large parts of northern Brazil and central southern Africa could lose their tropical forests because of reduced rainfall and increased temperatures. Tropical rainforests absorb a huge amount of atmospheric CO2 during photosynthesis, locking it away, and therefore reducing the greenhouse effect. Tropical rainforests are also renowned for their species diversity; therefore the loss of rainforest habitats will inevitably result in extinctions.
Severe Weather Events: The extra energy in the atmosphere brought about by an increase in temperature is expected to trigger more frequent and severe weather events, (i.e. storms, hurricanes and generally stronger winds). Increases in temperature are also likely to cause increased periods of heat and drought events. Long periods of drought bring about increased likelihood of forest fires.
Species Migration: Climate change will bring about a migration of species, i.e. Inhabitants of low level mountainous regions will migrate to higher, cooler latitudes as temperatures increase. Overall, a pole-ward shift in climatic zones / biomes is expected across the globe, in response to temperature and weather alterations at different latitudes.
Ocean Currents: Climate models suggest the Gulf Stream (the ocean current that moves warm water from the Gulf of Mexico north into the Atlantic, bringing warmth to the UK and north-west Europe), could be disrupted and even shut off by climate change. This would actually result in a cooling of the UK and North-west Europe.
For further details please visit NASA - climate