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What are the consequences of these changes?

What are the consequences of these changes?

To help us understand how climate change will vary across the world, the Met Office have created a map showing the relative change in temperature across the globe. It is notable that other parts of the world are expected to see much bigger changes than Reading. This map also identifies some of the key consequences that individual regions may be expected to have to deal with. These are listed further with links to the IPCC impacts report.

Global consequences map  -  If you can view flash media through your web browser, you can use this interactive map to see some of the global consequences of climate change. This was designed by the Met Office, and shows what a global average temperature increases of 4ºC for the world. Notice that we will exceed this even if we follow some of the medium emission scenarios (e.g. the A2 scenario) by the end of the century.

If you cannot view flash media content, I have grabbed these 3 screenshots [i] from the map showing:

The whole world (with expected consiquences)

The northern hemisphere (with expected consiquences)

The northern hemisphere (just temperature)

Under the high emissions scenario, by the 2080s, the average annual temperature rise for Reading (central estimate) is about 4.4ºC. If you consider how much wider the changes are, when we looked in depth at seasonal and monthly projections, it makes some of the predictions for other parts of the world look extremely serious. What will the future hold for places like northern parts of America, Canada and Russia, which have predictions of 8 to 10ºC changes to average annual temperature?

More on consequences

The IPCC reports contain a lot of detail about the likely effects of the climate changes that we are causing. They deal carefully with probabilities and confidence so you can see, for example, that "increased insect outbreaks" are virtually certain, and there is "very likely to be an increase in the frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation". These likelihoods all have meaning, depending on how well they can model and understand them.

The following graphic is taken from IPCC 4th Assessment Report (AR4): Working Group II Report "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" (Technical Summary). It plots the increase in global average temperature, with examples given in text of some of the physical and ecological consequences.

Graphic showing projected risked associated with different levels of global temperature rise (this is Figure TS.6, page 37 of the IPCC 'Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability' report mentioned in text).

It is worth noting that higher emissions will lead to more extreme consequences. These consequences (i.e. effects from temperature rises, changing rainfall and wind patterns), are expected to include:

  • Increased flooding, and associated soil erosion;
  • Increased heat waves, droughts, and hence crop failures;
  • Sea level rise, causing, for example, islands like the Maldives and substantial parts of mega-deltas (like Bangladesh) to disappear below the waves;
  • Melting of the Artic icecap, and of glaciers;
  • Loss/change to habitat;
  • Potential change to available water resources;
  • Increase in pests and diseases;
  • Loss of the coral reefs through increasing in ocean acidity and temperature;
  • Species loss, and increase in diseases and plagues;
  • Displacement of people, refugees.

There will be some winners, for example the people of Greenland will benefit from the melting ice and warmer soils, as they are able to grow more temperate crops. However, for the majority of us the world will be a more difficult place to live in and a less beautiful place to enjoy!

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