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The impacts of a changing climate have already been felt in many parts of the world. Most noticeable have been an increase in extreme weather events. It will therefore be necessary for people to adapt to a changing climate in addition to initiating actions to limit further emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Extreme weather events

The predictions of all climate models are an increasing number of extreme weather events on a worldwide basis. These are being reported with increasing frequency and are of three types –

  • Climatological events including extreme temperatures (low and high), droughts and forest fires
  • Hydrological events including flooding
  • Meteorological events like storms – tropical, convective and local

Increasing incidence of extreme weather events
Increasing incidence of extreme weather events (National Geographic Magazine November 2015)

While not all these events can be attributed to a changing climate, their impacts on the affected regions and people have been severe including loss of life, homes and livelihoods. Future impacts that will impact even more people include –

  • Rising sea levels making seaside communities more vulnerable to storm surges
  • Changes in salinity of the seas due to melting ice caps
  • Possible changes in global circulation of ocean currents

? Which extreme weather event do you think is most likely in your region and what can your community do to minimise its impact?

Time scale of changes

These changes have varying time scales and so adaptation will be both short and long term – examples include

Short term – events like hurricanes in the Caribbean or Cyclone Idai which devastated the northern parts of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in March 2019 causing extensive flooding and left a legacy of stagnant pools in which mosquitos could lay their larvae; extreme heat waves in India and Middle East.

Medium term – shifts in rainfall patterns like in the Sahel region of Africa resulting in crop failure and people having to migrate.

Long term – increasing rates of glacier melting in Himalayan Alps which lead ultimately to water shortages in the six major rivers which originate in this region on which 1 billion people depend.

Agriculture – is already being impacted by extreme weather conditions and these impacts will increase as their frequency of occurrence increases. Such changes will influence not only where crops can be grown but also how food can be distributed more widely.

Each community will have to develop their own plan to adapt to a changing climate. The sooner this process is started the more time there will be to undertake the necessary adaptation measures.

What impact do you think a changing climate will have on your community?

What actions can be started now to limit climatic changes in future years?

KITH # Activity Age range
1.14 Adapting to a changing climate
  Geography Science
  11 – 18  


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