Impact of climate change

Impact on the world

The possible impacts of climate change will vary widely across the globe. People who live in the least developed countries will be the hardest hit.

Negative impacts could include:

  • rising sea levels due to melting ice and thermal expansion (a billion people live in coastal areas)
  • changing patterns of rainfall, causing desertification in some areas and increased flooding in others
  • more frequent extreme weather events including heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall - tropical storms would also increase in strength and frequency
  • extinction of certain species due to shifting temperature regimes
  • spreading of diseases such as malaria (an additional 280 million people could be affected)
  • changing patterns of agriculture and crop yields
  • desertification or coastal flooding leading to human migration which could become a source of political and even military conflict
  • ski resorts in places such as the Alps could close due to a lack of snow

Positive impacts could include:

  • some animals and plants could benefit and flourish in a changing climate
  • new shipping routes, such as the northwest passage, would become available
  • more resources, such as oil, becoming available in places such as Alaska and Siberia when the ice melts
  • energy consumption decreasing due to a warmer climate
  • longer growing season leading to higher yields in current farming areas
  • frozen regions, such as Canada and Siberia, could grow crops
  • new tourist destinations becoming available

Impact on the UK

Within the UK, the onset of climate change may bring many negative and positive impacts.

Negative impacts of climate change in the UK could include:

  • scottish ski resorts could close due to lack of snow
  • arctic plant species in Scotland could become extinct
  • increased cost of building sea defences - as flood risk increases and sea-levels continue to rise
  • rising sea levels flooding low-lying areas, particularly in south-east England – valuable farmland such as the Fens would be lost
  • extreme weather events such as gale-force winds and storms are going to become more common
  • warmer temperatures might make it easier for diseases and pests to survive milder winters
  • increased demand for water in hotter summers putting pressure on water supplies, particularly in the south-east of the UK

Positive impacts of climate change in the UK could include:

  • some plant and animal species would thrive, and be able to grow and survive further north and at higher altitudes
  • growth in the UK tourist industry, particularly seaside resorts, with warmer, drier summers
  • warmer temperatures would reduce winter heating costs
  • warmer temperatures could lead to healthier outdoor lifestyles
  • higher year-round temperatures and longer growing seasons could mean that new crops such as oranges, grapes and peaches flourish in the UK