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Effects of climate change

Effects on land & agriculture

Changes in habitats

The global rise in temperatures will lead to changes in the distribution of habitats such as grasslands and savannahs, and drying out of wetlands. This will lead to changes in species distribution, including local extinction and new arrivals as some species cope better than others with the changes.

Farming & forests

Farming & forests

No-one can be sure, but it is likely that crop production in sub Saharan Africa will become even more difficult than it is now. Evergreen (coniferous) forests will slowly move north, leading to a decrease in forest productivity and desiccation (drying out) of trees. This will cause wilting, defoliation (leaf loss) and an increased likelihood of fires.

Such changes will cause lack of water or temperature stress to animals, reducing their resistance to pests and a consequent increase in disease. Already in the UK we are seeing
foreign pests invading.

Polar regions

Polar regions

At the poles, glaciers will melt faster leading to a dramatic change in food webs there, and a reduction in biodiversity.

A few winners

A few winners

It's not all doom and gloom. In his recent book "Global Warming: the complete briefing", Sir John Houghton wrote

At northern latitudes in Siberia or northern Canada, a longer growing season is likely to provide for more and possibly different crops. Increased carbon dioxide also acts as a fertiliser for some plants and again, if other conditions are also right, could lead to higher agricultural production. This higher production is likely to occur in developed countries at mid-latitudes. By contrast, many developing countries may not be able to produce as much for their increasing populations.

Effects of climate change on the oceans

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Uncertainties in Science

Scientists cannot be absolutely sure of the effects, but can only say what is the likeliest probably outcome. We have to make our decisions as to what to do about climate change based on the information we have.
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Managing conflicts of interest

Some of things we will need to actually do to combat climate change are hotly disputed by different groups of people.  How can we best navigate our way through these conflicts? The climate changes themselves may bring conflicts such as less water to go around in one place, or food shortages in another.