Climate Change Corner

Impactsof Climate Change

Over the years, we find new records and observations around the world consistent with the predictions of scientists on the effects of climate change. Most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities and the changes in global climate have already occurred. According to NASA, 2005 was the warmest year in this century and the ten warmest years have all occurred since 1980. The frequency of weather-related disasters, including windstorm, wildfire, wave/surge, insect infestation, flood, extreme temperature, epidemic and drought, increased from less than 200 to over 1,600 between 1950 to 2001. (1) Over 55,000 deaths happened worldwide from extreme temperature and 31,000 from flood betweenyears 2000 to 2005.(2, 3) For example, the abnormally low or absent rainfall between 2002 and 2005 led to bush fires and severe droughts in Australia. Indian heat wave of over 50 C caused 1,500 fatalities in 2003. Brazil was hit by the first hurricane happened in the South Atlantic and severe floods occurred in New Zealandin 2004. In the following year, Atlantic hurricane season broke records for the frequency of storms and Spain experienced the driest winter and early spring since 1947. The roads and buildings in some part of Alaska are subsiding as a result of 3C raise in temperature since 1950 leading to permafrost melt. In addition, most of the world’s glaciers are retreating at unprecedented rates.

The scientists predict that global warming is very likely to intensify the water cycle, aggravating the existing patterns of water scarcity and abundance and increasing the risk of droughts and floods. Rainfall will likely increase at high latitudes, while regions with Mediterranean-like climates in both hemispheres will experience significant reductions in rainfall. As temperature goes up, the world will face higher risk of abrupt and large-scale changes in the climate system. Changes in heat distribution around the world will likely disrupt ocean and atmospheric circulations, leading to large and possibly abrupt shifts in regional weather patterns. If the Greenland or West Antarctic Ice Sheets start to melt irreversibly, the rate of sea level rise could more than double, resulting in eventual sea level rise of 5-12maround the world over several centuries. We may even have no winter by the end of this century.

It should be emphasized that climate change is not solely an environmental concern, it also has strong implications on economic growth, human security and social development. It is obvious that climate change hits hardly on the poorer and more marginalized people. Billions of people today are living in poverty without access to clean water and lacking basic health care and many of them are dependent on agriculture. On top, climate change will impose severe impacts on developing countries such as changing crop yields at local scale and crop diversity at global scale. Sea level rise and reduced sea-ice coverage in the Arcticwill lead to change in economic development and employment in coastal ports.

In view of the serious impacts of climate change within our lifetime, we must take action now to avoid putting our future generations at risk!

Sources: (1)Lash J. and Wellington F., “Competitive Advantage on a Warming Planet”, Harvard Business Review, March 2007

(2)Dow K and Downing T.E, “The Atlas of Climate Change”, Earthscan, 2006

(3)Gore A., “An Inconvenient Truth”, Bloomsbury, 2006

Next Issue: International Responses to Climate Change


Climate Change Corner is contributed by the Environmental Division Committee with the co-ordination of IrC.F. LAM who can be contacted at .