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Effects of climate change


Effects on people


The global rainfall pattern will change in intensity and frequency (climate change) with increased likelihood of storms. Hurricanes such as Hurricane Katrina (that wreaked havoc on New Orleans in 2006 causing the city to have to be evacuated) will become more likely.



Photo CC Oxfam International

In the UK, low lying land such as coastal regions of East Anglia, or even central London may be more at risk of flooding. Elsewhere in the world, millions of people could lose their homes because the land they live on becomes too dangerous to live on. Some islands as in the Seychelles may disappear under water and  large parts of Bangladesh may become uninhabitable



Water supplies changing

Water supplies changing

Lake Hume only 4% full. Photo CC suburbanbloke

Where people live depends on the weather. Where it rains we can grow food, where it doesn't we can't live. Cities often grow up next to major rivers. Climate change may both drastically change the amount of water available and, crucially, where it is.

Australia  This is already happening in Australia in the Murray River basin, where a huge area of farmland that supplied much of Austrlia's grain is turning into desert, because the rains have gone. This has already been called the first climate disaster in the developed world.
Find out more

The River Nile provides the water for millions of people in north Africa and there is evidence that it is shrinking due to climate change. This has happened before during a previous climate shift, when roughly 14 thousand years ago, the river stopped flowing for 1300 hundred years. The lakes Tana (Ethiopia) and Victoria (Tanzania) which are the sources of the Nile stopped filling up, because the rains changed. 
 Watch this video to find out more.

Question: If these rivers dried up, where would all the people who depend on them go?

Melting permafrost

Melting permafrost

In many parts of the north and south polar regions, the increases in temperature are causing the permafrost to melt. Ground that has been frozen solid for thousands of years is turning to mud.

In Alaska, the people of Newtok are being forced to move their entire village, because without the frozen permafrost, the buildings are literally sinking into the mud and local rivers are eroding the ground so fast that the current village will be swept away.
Watch this video to find out more

Health - the good news

For some countries a warmer climate could be healthier.

 “A somewhat warmer climate would probably reduce mortality in the United States and provide Americans with valuable benefits [.....] a 2.5deg. Celsius warming would lower deaths in the United States by about 40,000 per year. Although the data on illness are poor, the numbers indicate that warming might reduce medical costs by about $20 billion annually. Research shows that workers today would be willing to give up between $30 billion and $100 billion annually in wages for a 2.5deg.C increase in temperatures.”

(c)1996 Thomas Gale Moore, Stanford University


Health - the bad news



Health - the bad news

In many countries the impact on health will be the exact opposite. With warmer temperatures increases in pests such as the malarial mosquito will spread disease.

In 2007, there was an outbreak of  Dengue Fever in southern Italy transmitted by mosquitoes. The World Health Organisation described it as the first European outbreak of a tropical disease caused by climate change.   Find out more



The Stern Report on the economic consequences of climate change was published in October 2006. It calculates that the cost of not doing anything to curb climate change would result in a 5%-20% loss of the world's economic output forever. This would be a result of the worldwide costs of storm damage, flooding, falling crop yields in areas of Africa and the loss of traditional industries such as forestry in sub-tropical regions such as Brazil.

By contrast, the cost of limiting climate change right now, could be as little as 1% of the world's economic output over the next 10-20 years. That is still a vast amount of money, but much less than the cost of not doing anything.

War and future conflicts

War and future conflicts

Refugees from the Darfur conflict in 2009. CC Albert Gonzalez Farran

It is feared that climate change may make some countries much harder places to live in, resulting in conflict and war over access to reduced resources. 

Climate change has already been blamed as one cause of the recent war in  Darfur, Sudan. For centuries, farmers have lived alongside nomadic herders, who move their cattle to new pastures. The rain in Sudan has decreased by 30%, hugely reducing the area of land where crops can be grown. This forced the farmers and herders into conflict over access to land and helped trigger a bloody conflict.  Find out more.

Read this article:  Climate 'is a major cause' of conflict in Africa


Effects on agriculture

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Text equivalent:

The few vs the many

The carbon producing behaviour of the few (rich countries) will have have a profound impact upon the lives of the many (poor countries). Will those in rich countries be prepared to change how they live to protect those elsewhere?
Text equivalent:

Quality of life

For the worst effects of climate change to be avoided, those in polluting countries need to drastically cut their release of greenhouse gases. This can only come through using less energy.  Will those responsible be prepared to do without?
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Protecting that which is held in common

We have a duty to protect those things that belong to us all, Climate change is damaging our collective home, the planet Earth. Now we know it is happening, do we have a duty to prevent the situation getting worse?

Flooding in Bangladesh

Click on the map to see vulnerable Bangladesh is to rising water.

Map by Robert A. Rohde / Global Warming Art