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Impacts

Rising global temperatures

An average 1º C temperature rise has already been observed since the start of the industrial era (ca 1750), and if this trend is continued, irreversible changes in climate could occur. Based on existing scientific evidence, the IPCC has recomanded that it is essential to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5º C.

Whilst an average temperature rise of 1.5º C might not seem a lot, the fact is that such temperature rises are not uniformly distributed throughout the globe. Polar regions have experienced much higher temperature rises leading to concerns about melting ice sheets, rising sea levels and changes in the circulation of ocean currents particularly in the Arctic region.

Extreme weather conditions

Other predictions of climate models suggest more extreme weather conditions – these include tropical storms, extreme heat and cold, flooding and droughts. Such events have occurred with increasing frequency in the past decade with loss of lives, crops and livestock.
[link to adaptation]

Shifts in rainfall

An equal concern is possible shifts in rainfall (precipitation) in sub-arid areas like the Sahel area if Africa which may require inhabitants to migrate to other areas which are already inhabited. In previous eras when the climate changed, migration was possible because there was a small global population.

Coral reefs

Sometimes climate change in combination with other factors can also induce change in ecosystems. For example, three quarters of the world’s coral reefs are at risk from over fishing, pollution as well as climate change. By 2050 virtually all of the world’s coral reefs from the waters of the Indian Ocean to Australia will be in danger. Some 275 million people live within 30 kilometres of reefs which provide an important habitat for fish.

Tropical rainforests

The tropical rainforests form a very important part of the Earth’s eco systems for the following reasons –

  • over half the world’s plants and animal species are found in them
  • the Amazon rainforest alone releases 20 billion tonnes of moisture every day, helping to water crops thousands of kilometres away
  • healthy rainforests absorb up to 10% of mankind’s carbon emissions each year through photosynthesis and storing carbonaceous products in plants, trees, roots and soils; up to 100 – 300 tonnes of carbon per hectare can be stored

The area of rainforest is declining through deforestation to meet global demands for food, wood and industrial materials. This destruction is reducing the ability of rainforests to absorb carbon dioxide and no other living sink is able to take over this role.

The other threat to the rainforest is through global warming and changing rainfall patterns which could limit the growth of its biomass.

 

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