The many impacts of climate change - A serious global environmental issue?

Climate change due to the increasing concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere since pre-industrial times poses a huge threat and challenge to mankind.

The earth is currently warming rapidly. And this warming is bringing about massive changes. Our glaciers are melting rapidly. The artic ice-shelf is breaking apart into pieces and threatens to modify the salinity of the oceans.

The heating up of the Earth, is putting much more than usual moisture in the air. Hence, we now have rains (precipitation) which are heavier than normal and that which falls all in a fewer dyas in the year. The heat evaporates the moisture in the soil rapidly leading to widespread drought conditions. We have been experiencing heat waves and cold waves which are much higher than normal. The changes in ocean temperatures are modifying the ocean currents, thus creating erratic and extreme weather conditions - creating more intense and frequent hurricanes, storms, tornadoes.

These are not doomsday prophecies or a horror movie. Here are some examples of what we are already experiencing:

Drought across eastern and southern Africa and the Rockies in North America. Indonesia and Sri Lanka experience flooding.

Costa Rica, Panama and Guyana have heavy rainfall and flooding that affects 200 000 people.

World Glaciers shrinking at an alarming rate Monsoon rain causes serious flooding in Mumbai, India, breaking the country's 95-year old record for the most rain in 24 hours, and leaving 1 500 people dead Hurricane Katrina becomes one of the most devastating disasters in US history Northern China suffers from severe flooding that temporarily displaces 350000 people.

Hurricane Stan takes 2 000 lives in Guatemala while Hurricane Wilma devastates Yucatan, Mexico, before striking Florida

The twentieth century was the warmest century in 1200 years Tropical storm Delta hits the Canary Islands, the first ever tropical storm to strike the islands Dubai experiences its first ever Snowfall Unseasonal hailstorms in Bangalore

Climate Change will have impact us in many ways, more specifically on:   

  • our physical and biological environment and systems : heat and cold waves, melting of ice-cap and glaciers which will impact the plant, insect and animal life and their movements, including our own living conditions
  • our water resources : its occurrence, distribution, and circulation, the way our streams and rivers will flow, the ways in which rain will fall
  • our coastlines and coastal ecosystems : their distribution, fragility, and balance
  • our land and agriculture : the quality of land, the food crops and thus our food security
  • our rural and urban settlements
  • our health : new diseases, mutations and movements of virii, pests etc.
  • our industries and institutions

At a global level the melting ice-caps will directly result in increase in sea-levels. This would mean that the coast of every country, every continent, every island would change and the coastal populations will badly affected. Considering that the world's highest percentages of populations live along the coast, it will result in history's largest human migration. Where will the displaced populations go? Inwards. Creating huge pressure on already vulnerable and scarce resources.
The worst affected will be the small islands, which might submerge hugely if not get entirely wiped out.

Having taken into account worldwide studies on the various phenomena and their trends, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the IPCC has come out with a comprehensive account of the likely impacts of Climate Change. It spells out in graphic summaries some of the adverse impacts on weather events, ecocystems, food, water and the risk of major irreversible changes. It has assessed different impacts at different levels of increase in average global temperatures.

Other readings

1. Click here to see how Gary Braasch, through pictures, shows how climate change is affecting our world

Gary Braasch, an environmental photographer, has photographed areas on all continents that illustrate documented results of climate change. He is also seeking to repeat historic photographs to show the changes. He will work with environmental groups, scientists and editors to educate the public, urging government and corporate sectors to more directly address the reality of climate change.

His goal is to illustrate the changes and research and publicize people's stake in and possible responsibility for global warming.

The accompanying text is well researched and easy to understand. His personal accounts in different parts of the world make the reading interesting.

The site also gives details on resources, references, advisors, actions related to this project.

2. Click here This site summarizes projected impacts of climate change by sectors. It also defines abrupt climate change. This, I felt was something additional to what is commonly known.

Click here

This site talks about "vulnerability science", which again, is not commonly known. issues of development, equity and sustainability — in short vulnerability — are beginning to take centre stage, in the public consciousness of the growing threat of climate change in the wake of Hurricane Mitch and the Orissa cyclone, in negotiations on international conventions, and in emerging research programmes. So, what are people talking about when they use the word vulnerability? This site gives some directions.

Disaster dossier: The Impact of climate change on Orissa by Richard Mahapatra
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Climate change effects on marine ecosystems report
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Chongqing drought raises climate change worries
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Europe heatwaves 'soon routine'
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How much excess freshwater was added to the North Atlantic in recent decades?
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Climate change

Is global warming causing more, larger wildfires?
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Melting Ice caps
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Researchers link wildfires, climate change
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Scientists fear ice caps melting faster than predicted
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The real story behind the Midwest floods - Climate Change ?
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Typhoons more predictable but still deadly
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Warmer Himalayas 'Suffocates fish in Arabian Sea'
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Western wildfires linked to climate change
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