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Global warming is changing our world. It is a global threat with real implications for everyone no
matter where we live.
Global warming is caused by a variety of gases and materials in our atmosphere; including huge
amounts of carbon dioxide and methane from human activities such as extracting and burning fossil
fuels, and clearing forests. These gases can trap heat in the atmosphere, causing steadily increasing
Global warming is primarily a problem of too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere—which
acts as a blanket, trapping heat and warming the planet. As we burn fossil fuels like coal, oil and
natural gas for energy and burn forests to create pastures and plantations, carbon accumulates and
overloads our atmosphere.

Impacts of Global Warming

Global warming is already underway with consequences that must be faced today as well as tomorrow.
Evidence of changes to the Earth's physical, chemical and biological processes is now evident on every
Sea levels are rising and glaciers are shrinking; record high temperatures and severe rainstorms and
droughts are becoming increasingly common. Changes in temperatures and rainfall patterns alter plant
and animal behavior and have significant implications for humans.
Not only are global warming-induced changes currently underway, but scientists also expect additional
effects on human society and natural environments around the world. Some further warming is
already unavoidable due to past heat-trapping emissions; unless we aggressively reduce today's
emissions, scientists project extra warming and thus additional impacts.
Global Warming impacts are categorized into five main groupings which affects:
 People
 Freshwater
 Oceans
 Ecosystems
 Temperature
As our climate changes, the risk of injury, illness, and death from the resulting heat waves, wildfires,
intense storms, and floods rises.
 Extreme heat. If high temperatures, especially when combined with high relative humidity,
persist for several days (heat waves), and if nighttime temperatures do not drop, extreme heat
can be a killer
 Poor air quality. Three key ingredients—sunlight, warm air, and pollution from power plants
and cars burning coal and gasoline—combine to produce ground-level ozone (smog), which
humans experience as poor air quality. Higher air temperatures increase smog, if sunlight, fossil
fuel pollution, and air currents remain the same.
 Allergens and other nuisances. Warmer temperatures and higher concentrations of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere stimulate some plants to grow faster, mature earlier, or produce
more potent allergens. Common allergens such as ragweed seem to respond particularly well to
higher concentrations of CO2, as do pesky plants such as poison ivy. Allergy-related diseases
rank among the most common and chronic illnesses that can lead to lower productivity.
 Spreading diseases. Scientists expect a warmer world to bring changes in "disease vectors"—
the mechanisms that spread some diseases. Insects previously stopped by cold winters are
already moving to higher latitudes (toward the poles). Warmer oceans and other surface waters
may also mean severe cholera outbreaks and harmful bacteria in certain types of seafood. Still,
changes in land use and the ability of public health systems to respond make projecting the risk
of vector-borne disease particularly difficult.


Climate-related threats to global food production include risks to grain, vegetable, and fruit crops,
livestock, and fisheries.

 Reduced yields. The productivity of crops and livestock, including milk yields, may decline
because of high temperatures and drought-related stress.
 Increased irrigation. Regions of the world that now depend on rain-fed agriculture may require
irrigation, bringing higher costs and conflict over access to water.
 Planting and harvesting changes. Shifting seasonal rainfall patterns and more severe
precipitation events—and related flooding—may delay planting and harvesting.
 More pests. Insect and plant pests may survive or even reproduce more often each year if cold
winters no longer keep them in check. New pests may also invade each region as temperature
and humidity conditions change. Lower-latitude pests may move to higher latitudes, for
Water Use

Humans use water for everything from drinking and bathing to growing crops, supporting livestock and
fish farms, shipping goods, generating electricity, and simply relaxing and having fun. Yet climate
change is producing profound changes in this precious commodity, threatening water availability,
access, and even quality.

 Decline in drinking water—both quantity and quality—is expected for these reasons:

► Municipal sewer systems may overflow during extreme rainfall events, gushing untreated
sewage into drinking water supplies.
► Loss of mountain snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt spurred by higher temperatures
reduce the availability of drinking water downstream.
► The shrinking of mountain glaciers threatens drinking water supplies for millions of people.
► Sea-level rise can lead to saltwater intrusion into groundwater drinking supplies, especially
in low-lying, gently sloping coastal areas.
 Decline in irrigation supplies. Loss of mountain snowpack reduces the amount of water
available for irrigation downstream, while earlier spring snowmelt affects the timing.
 Disruptions to power supply. Lower lake and river levels may threaten the capacity of
hydroelectric plants, while higher temperatures may mean that water is too warm to cool coal
and nuclear power plants, leading to power brownouts. Shrinking mountain glaciers threaten
electricity generation as well.

Fresh Water
Extreme Wet

A warmer climate spurs the evaporation of water from land and sea and allows the atmosphere to hold
more moisture—thus setting the stage for more extreme precipitation.

The atmosphere's water-holding capacity increases by about 4 percent for every 1° Fahrenheit (0.6°
Celsius) rise in temperature.

Extreme precipitation is likely when a storm passes through a warmer atmosphere holding more
water. In warmer months, it takes the form of torrential rainstorms; in winter, blizzards are more
At the same time, most regions, in the face of warming temperatures, are losing snow cover on the
ground that lasts longer than 30 days. Winters are shorter, fewer cold records are set, more
precipitation is falling as rain and less as snow—although whopper snowstorms are even more likely in
some places—and snow packs are shrinking and melting earlier.

Wet places tend to get wetter. Atmospheric circulation over oceans, plains, and mountains helps
determine where rainforests thrive and semi-arid regions develop. However, wet places tend to get
wetter and dry places dryer in a warming world—as is already occurring today.

Extreme Dry

While some regions are likely to get wetter as the world warms, other regions that are already on the
dry side are likely to get drier.

Global warming affects the movement of water into the atmosphere from land and water surfaces and
plants due to evaporation and transpiration, which is expected to lead to:

 Increased drought in dry areas. In drier regions, evapotranspiration may produce periods of
drought—defined as below-normal levels of rivers, lakes, and groundwater, and lack of enough
soil moisture in agricultural areas.
 Expansion of dry areas. Scientists expect the amount of land affected by drought to grow by
mid-century—and water resources in affected areas to decline as much as 30 percent.
Land Ice

Shrinking land ice is wreaking havoc across the globe.

 Sea-level rise. Water from shrinking glaciers and ice sheets is now the major contributor to
global sea-level rise.
 Long-term decline in water resources. Nearly one-sixth of the world's population lives near
rivers that derive their water from glaciers and snow cover. Most of these communities can
expect to see their water resources peak and then ultimately decline during this century.
 Short-term increase in flash floods. Many rivers that derive their water from melting glaciers or
snow are likely to have earlier peak runoff in spring and an overall increase in runoff, at least in
the short term—potentially increasing the risk of flash floods and rockslides.

Sea Level

Higher seas endanger coastal communities—where 40 percent of the world's population lives—and
threaten groundwater supplies.
Two major mechanisms are causing sea level to rise. First, shrinking land ice, such as mountain glaciers
and polar ice sheets, is releasing water into the oceans. Second, as ocean temperatures rise, the
warmer water expands. The consequences of sea level rise include:

 Threats to coastal communities (High tides and storm surges). Some 40 percent of the world's
population lives within 100 kilometers of the ocean, putting millions of lives and billions of
dollars' worth of property and infrastructure at risk.
 Saltwater intrusion. Sea-level rise can mean that saltwater intrudes into groundwater drinking
supplies, contaminates irrigation supplies, or overruns agricultural fields. Coastal areas are
particularly vulnerable to contamination of freshwater supplies.
Ocean Chemistry

The world's oceans are becoming more acidic, threatening sea life.

The acidification of the oceans due to climate change impairs the ability of coral reefs and shelled
organisms to form skeletons and shells.

Acidification occurs when the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere

Some research shows that if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 reach 520 parts per million—we are at
382 ppm now, and 520 ppm is plausible by mid-century—most of the coral species living in warm
ocean waters could scarcely support further growth such as species that have larvae that respond
negatively to higher ocean acidity.

Lakes and Rivers

Climate change is already beginning to affect plants and animals that live in freshwater lakes and
rivers, altering their habitat and bringing life-threatening stress and disease.

 Displacement of cold-water species. As air temperatures rise, water temperatures do also—

particularly in shallow stretches of rivers and surface waters of lakes. Streams and lakes may
become unsuitable for cold-water fish but support species that thrive in warmer waters. Some
warm-water species are already moving to waters at higher latitudes and altitudes.
 Dead zones. In a warming climate, a warmer upper layer in deep lakes slows down air
exchange—a process that normally adds oxygen to the water. This, in turn, often creates large
"dead zones"—areas depleted of oxygen and unable to support life. Persistent dead zones can
produce toxic algal blooms, foul-smelling drinking water, and massive fish kills.
 Effects on reproduction. Earlier snowmelt, rising amounts of precipitation that falls as rain
rather than snow, and more severe and frequent flooding—all linked to global warming—may
affect the reproduction of aquatic species. Some salmon populations have declined, for
example, as more intense spring floods have washed away salmon eggs laid in stream beds.
 Disease. The more intense precipitation that accompanies a warming world makes river
flooding more likely. This flooding—combined with sewer system overflows and other problems
stemming from inadequate sanitation infrastructure—can lead to disease outbreaks from
water-borne bacteria.

Rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns are changing the geographic areas where
mammals, birds, insects, and plants that live on land can survive—and are affecting the timing of
lifecycle events, such as bud bursts, leaf drop from trees, pollination, reproduction, and bird migration.

 Forced migrations and extinctions. Plants and animals are migrating to higher altitudes and
 Increase in agricultural pests. Agricultural pests formerly constrained to low-latitude locales
are moving to higher latitudes as those regions warm.
 Changing woodlands. Many tree species are adapted to particular temperature and moisture
conditions. As these conditions change, habitats become unsuitable for saplings to grow, and
species attempt to migrate.

Air Temperature

Rising air temperatures bring heat waves, spread disease, shift plant and animal habitat and cause
extreme weather events, from drought to blizzards.

Ocean Temperature

Warmer oceans put coastal communities at risk, increase infrastructure costs, endanger polar
creatures and threaten coral reefs and fisheries. Perhaps most alarmingly, rising ocean temperatures
accelerate the overall warming trend.

Water Temperature

Warmer lakes, rivers and streams threaten aquatic species, by disrupting reproductive cycles,
displacing cold-water species and creating dead zones in deep lakes.
Ground Temperature

As permafrost (frozen ground) thaws, it releases heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, which
accelerates global warming. It also alters local ecosystems and destabilizes infrastructure, necessitating
costly repairs.

Solutions to Global Warming

There is no single solution to global warming, which is primarily a problem of too much heat-trapping
carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Some technologies and
approaches that can be used to bring down the emissions of these gases are listed below:

 Boosting energy efficiency: The energy used to power, heat, and cool our homes, businesses,
and industries is the single largest contributor to global warming. Energy efficiency technologies
allow us to use less energy to get the same—or higher—level of production, service, and
comfort. This approach has vast potential to save both energy and money, and can be deployed
 Greening transportation: The transportation sector's emissions have increased at a faster rate
than any other energy-using sector over the past decade. A variety of solutions are at hand,
including improving efficiency in all modes of transport, switching to low-carbon fuels, and
more efficient mass transportation systems.
 Revving up renewables: Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and
bioenergy are available around the world. Renewable technologies can be deployed quickly, are
increasingly cost-effective, and create jobs while reducing pollution.
 Phasing out fossil fuel electricity: Dramatically reducing our use of fossil fuels—especially
carbon-intensive coal—is essential to tackle climate change.
 Managing forests and agriculture: Taken together, tropical deforestation and emissions from
agriculture represent nearly 30 percent of the world's heat-trapping emissions. We can fight
global warming by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and by
making our food production practices more sustainable.
 Exploring nuclear: Because nuclear power results in few global warming emissions, an
increased share of nuclear power in the energy mix could help reduce global warming—but
nuclear technology poses serious threats to our security.
 Developing and deploying new low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies: Research into and
development of the next generation of low-carbon technologies will be critical to deep mid-
century reductions in global emissions

Adapting to changes already underway: The impacts of a warming world are already being felt
by people around the globe. If climate change continues unchecked, these impacts are almost
certain to get worse. From sea level rise to heat waves, from extreme weather to disease
outbreaks, each unique challenge requires locally-suitable solutions to prepare for and respond
to the impacts of global warming. Unfortunately, those who will be hit hardest and first by the
impacts of a changing climate are likely to be the poor and vulnerable, especially those in the
least developed countries. Developed countries must take a leadership role in providing
financial and technical help for adaptation.