How is climate change affecting our environment?

Climate change and tropical coral reefs

Australia is a vast country where the impacts of climate change are extensive. One of the most vulnerable ecosystems in Australia is the Great Barrier Reef. This tropical reef ecosystem is located in the north-east of Australia, and it is now affected by a disease known as coral bleaching. This condition occurs when the temperature of the seawater rises by over one degree more than average. As a result, the coral turns white, photosynthesis ceases and the coral often dies due to disease.

Swooping shapes of the reef can bee seen in the vivid blue sea
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Climate change and the UK

The UK has also experienced many problems as a direct result of global warming:

  • extreme weather events
  • increased flood risk
  • extinction of highland plants
  • species invasion

These are negative impacts of climate change within the UK. However, there are also some positive impacts. If temperatures increase and solar radiation increases, then the UK could generate more energy from renewable sources such as solar energy. Across the UK, businesses, home owners and farmers have been harnessing the energy of the sun to generate electricity. This means that less energy is being produced by greenhouse gases which will benefit our planet and reduce the impacts of climate change in the future.

A large number of solar panels agled towrds the sun in a field of frass and wildflowers

Short and long term impacts

Social impacts

Many people in coastal communities are at risk from flooding. Whole villages may need to be abandoned due to sea levels rising and coastal erosion.

Economic impacts

Drier, warmer summers may increase income through tourism. However, flood damage, increased insurance premiums and increased spending on flood defences may place huge pressures on local and government spending.

Environmental impacts

A higher risk of extreme storms will flood areas, destroying the land. Species of animals and plants may be lost as they move northwards in search of colder climates. New invasive species from the south may also find their way to the British shores which may have a negative impact on local habitats.

Alternative futures

In the future it is likely that people may have to contribute more in taxes in order to pay for the increased flood defences and the extra ‘strain’ on the health services. Many of the most vulnerable coastal communities may be abandoned with people needing to find new houses. Increased insurance premiums will also result in some people being unable to afford to protect their homes. Farming businesses may also need to change or adapt to new wetter and drier periods – some will prosper but many may suffer.