Climate change

Implications

Scientists, politicians and businesses continue to debate the causes of global warming, with some arguing it is a natural process that's been going on for centuries. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - established by the United Nations in 1988 - has stated the evidence suggests that human activity DOES affect global warming, in particular through the release of greenhouse gases and the use of aerosols.

There is also controversy over how fast the Earth is warming up. Some scientists estimate that atmospheric temperatures could rise by 1.4°-5.8°C in the next 100 years. Others believe that they will rise more slowly.

Whatever the causes and timescale, the effects of global warming are very serious.

Effects - local and global

Global carbon emissions Global carbon emissions

  • Developed countries currently use more energy, burn more fossil fuels and give off more greenhouse gases than developing countries; the map above shows which countries are responsible for the most emissions.
  • Developing countries want to develop - to catch up with developed countries - and this normally means using more energy and burning more fuel which could speed up global warning even more.
  • Increased temperatures are causing ice caps to melt, as a consequence polar bear habitats are shrinking.

  • As global warming melts the world's ice caps and glaciers, this leads to an increase in sea levels.
  • An increase in sea temperatures causes the water to expand, increasing the problem of flooding.
  • Global warming could also affect the weather patterns, leading to more droughts (causing crop failure), flooding (causing the extinction of species) and extreme weather, such as hurricanes.
  • Tourism problems are set to increase as there will be less snow in some mountain resorts but more heat in other areas, for example the Mediterranean.

Arctic sea ice melts

  • Tropical diseases like malaria will spread as temperatures rise.
  • In Britain we are largely unaffected by the dangerous weather of the tropics, such as hurricanes or severe droughts but some climatologists argue that the UK climate is changing as a result of global warming - with the possibility of more frequent floods, water shortages and extreme weather conditions.