When you change the climate you change everything
The climate plays such a major part in our planet's environmental system that even minor changes have impacts that are large and complex.
Climate change affects people and nature in countless ways, and it often increases existing threats that have already put pressure on the environment.
But it is not a problem which has appeared overnight – it's 30 years since scientists first alerted the world to the dangers of climate change. How much longer are we going to allow it to continue?
The change in nature has serious implications for people and our economic system. The insurance industry puts potential economic damage caused by global warming impacts at hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
Climate change impacts on waterRivers and lakes supply drinking water for people and animals, as well as being vital for agriculture and industry. Oceans and seas provide food for billions of people.
Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world's water systems, including more floods and droughts. Extremes of drought and flooding will become more common, causing displacement and conflict and less fresh water means less agriculture, food and income.
Climate change impacts on forestsForests do so much: they purify our air, improve water quality, keep soils intact, provide us with food, wood products and medicines, and are home to many of the world’s most endangered wildlife.
In fact, an estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide rely on forests for their livelihoods, including 60 million indigenous people who depend on forests for their subsistence.
Forests also help protect the planet from climate change by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), a major source of pollution that causes climate change.
Unfortunately, forests are being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate by logging and burning to clear land for agriculture or livestock. These activities release huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Scientists estimate up to 20 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation – greater than emissions from every car, truck and plane on the planet combined. So instead of forests helping us to solve the climate crisis, deforestation is making the situation even worse.
Climate change impacts on food securityClimate change will have a significant impact on food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food systems stability in many parts of the world. Climate change poses a significant risk of increased crop failure, loss of livestock and impact on local food security.
In some areas drier and warmer conditions are predicted, elsewhere wetter conditions are expected and will affect agriculture practices. It will affect human health and livelihoods, as well as people’s purchasing power, food markets and food security on a household level.
Climate change impacts on agricultureMany people throught the world rely on rain-fed agriculture. As a result, it is highly vulnerable to changes in climate variability, seasonal shifts, and precipitation patterns. Any amount of warming will result in increased water stress. Roughly 70 percent of the population lives by farming, and 40 percent of all exports are agricultural products (WRI 1996). One-third of the income in Africa is generated by agriculture. Crop production and livestock husbandry account for about half of household income. The poorest members of society are those who are most dependent on agriculture for jobs and income. (Odingo 1990; FAO 1999).
And the top 11 warmest years are:
Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that the 11 warmest years globally since 1856 have occurred in the last 15 years.
- 1998 & 2005 (joint),
- 2002 & 2003 (joint),
- 1990 & 1999 (joint),
- 1991 & 2000 (joint).