The following is a list and description of potential global effects of climate change as outlined by Anup Shah of globalissues.org, a website devoted to the explanation of issues that effect the global spectrum and how those issues are inter-related.
Research has shown that air pollutants from fossil fuel use make clouds reflect more of the sun’s rays back into space. This leads to an effect known as global dimming whereby less heat and energy reaches the earth. At first, it sounds like an ironic savior to climate change problems. However, it is believed that global dimming caused the droughts in Ethiopia in the 1970s and 80s where millions died, because the northern hemisphere oceans were not warm enough to allow rain formation. Global dimming is also hiding the true power of global warming. By cleaning up global dimming-causing pollutants without tackling greenhouse gas emissions, rapid warming has been observed, and various human health and ecological disasters have resulted, as witnessed during the European heat wave in 2003, which lead to the deaths of thousands of people.
The pollutants alone that lead to global dimming also lead to various human and environmental problems, such as smog, respiratory problems, and acid rain.
Environmental issues are also a major global issue. Humans depend on a sustainable and healthy environment, and it is potentially be gradually destroyed by climate change. One major issue is biodiviersity:
Biodiversity: Rapid global warming can affect an ecosystems chances to adapt naturally. The link between climate change and biodiversity has long been established. Although throughout Earth’s history the climate has always changed with ecosystems and species coming and going, rapid climate change affects ecosystems and species ability to adapt and so biodiversity loss increases. From a human perspective, the rapid climate change and accelerating biodiversity loss risks human security (e.g. a major change in the food chain upon which we depend, water sources may change, recede or disappear, medicines and other resources we rely on may be harder to obtain as the plants and forna they are derived from may reduce or disappear, etc.). The Arctic is very sensitive to climate change and already seeing lots of changes. Ocean biodiversity is already being affected as are other parts of the ecosystem.
Extreme Weather Patterns: Most scientists believe that the warming of the climate will lead to more extreme weather patterns such as more hurricanes and drought, longer spells of dry heat or intense rain, scientists have pointed out that Northern Europe could be severely affected with colder weather if climate change continues, as the arctic begins to melt and send fresher waters further south.
It would effectively cut off the Gulf Stream that brings warmth from the Gulf of Mexico, keeping countries such as Britain warmer than expected;
In South Asia, the Himalayan glaciers could retreat causing water scarcity in the long run.
Increase In Pests And Disease: An increase in pests and disease is also feared. A report in the journal Science in June 2002 described the alarming increase in the outbreaks and epidemics of diseases throughout the land and ocean based wildlife due to climate changes.
Failing Agricultural Output; Increase In World Hunger: The Guardian summarizes a United Nations warning that, “One in six countries in the world face food shortages this year because of severe droughts that could become semi-permanent under climate change.” Drought and desertification are supposedly starting to spread and intensify in some parts of the world already.
Recent years and months have seen increasing attention being paid to the issue of energy security. There are a number of concerns and fears such as:
Oil and other fossil fuel depletion
Reliance on foreign sources of energy
Geopolitics (such as supporting dictatorships, rising terrorism, “stability” of nations that supply energy)
Energy needs of poorer countries, and demands from advancing developing countries such as China and India
Economic efficiency versus population growth debate
Environmental issues, in particular climate change
Renewables and other alternative energy sources
Energy insecurity combined with other global issues risks fueling conflict, repeating past mistakes in history.
Dominance and Change in the Arctic
The Arctic region has long been considered international territory. Five countries—Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States—share a border with the frozen Arctic Ocean. Some of these nations have claimed parts of the region to be their territory. Underlying the interests in the area are potentially vast oil, gas and other resources, as well as the opening up of lucrative passages for trade and economic activity as climate change reduces the amount of ice in the region. As a result, these nations have been vying for dominance in the Arctic. Climate change provides an additional threat — not just to the local wildlife and indigenous populations that are already seeing their surroundings change rapidly, but to the rest of the planet, too. While retreating sea ice may open up shipping routes, the regions ability to reflect sunlight back into space would diminish, further increasing climate change effects.
Shah, Anup. “Climate Change and Global Warming.” Global Issues, Updated: 06 Mar. 2011. Accessed: 20 Mar. 2011. <http://www.globalissues.org/issue/178/climate-change-and-global-warming>