Consequences of Climate Change

Climate change, or global warming, is an extremely important issue which is covered in GCSE Geography. This is one of four quizzes on the matter and it looks in particular at some of the consequences of global warming.

Global climate change is still sometimes referred to as global warming. The change is an overall rise in the Earth’s temperature, but some localised areas may see a drop in temperature as sea currents and air currents shift and change. That might not sound too bad, but there will be some dire consequences when the Earth's temperature rises. The most obvious effects will be melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels. Some areas will see an increase of extreme weather events, including heavy rain. This will lead to flooding and decreased water quality as the floods will contaminate clean water resources. Climate change will affect the poles and the tropics the most, but how will things change closer to home?

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The consequences of global warming in Europe are not much better. It is expected that southern and central Europe will see more frequent heat waves, leading to more forest fires and droughts. The Mediterranean zone is already showing signs of becoming drier and its ecosystems changing - it's also becoming more vulnerable to droughts and wildfires. Those that live in Northern Europe (like us in the UK) will see wetter conditions and an increased risk of winter flooding. Four out of every five Europeans live in cities, but cities are difficult to move and need to be defended often using expensive hard engineering solutions. Beyond that, the buildings are often designed for the previous climate and it may be difficult to adapt these to the changing weather systems.

Wildlife is a leading victim of rapid climate change. The speed in which the climatic conditions are changing is preventing animals moving or adapting quickly enough for the species to survive. Artificial fixing of boundaries also prevents natural adaption to changing conditions. For example, as sea levels rise coral reefs would normally adapt by increasing the growth on the shallower side. But with fixed shipping channels and beach boundaries the slow movement of these colonies of organisms is prevented. Rising winter temperatures are preventing reptile brumination (their equivalent of hibernation) at the correct level, increasing the number of deaths over winter, and wetter summers may prevent numerous species from raising their young.

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  1. How will climate change reduce the amount of fresh water available for drinking?
    The increased flooding and sea level rises, as well as desertification, will lead to water stress in more areas
  2. 17 million people in Bangladesh will be negatively impacted by climate change. What is the main risk that climate change poses to Bangladesh?
    As a low-lying country, Bangladesh is at risk from rising sea levels and flooding
  3. In 2008 Global CO2 levels reached 380ppm. If they reach 550ppm how much is it predicted that average global temperatures would rise in degrees Celsius?
    Whilst a rise of 6 degrees doesn't sound like a lot, it's the difference between a warm day in England and a warm day in southern Spain. Species would go extinct as they struggled to adapt to the new climatic conditions, droughts and storms. Low-lying areas would be flooded as well which would have an impact on the economy
  4. When referring to sea level rise we normally discuss melting ice. What other effect of global warming may lead to sea level rise and coastal flooding?
    The thermal expansion of the water might not sound like a lot, but a large temeperature increase will cause a significant sea level rise
  5. How is climate change likely to affect human migration patterns?
    People living in MEDCs (More Economically Developed Countries) will be more able to adapt to the changing weather than those in LEDCs (Less Economically Developed Countries). Many of the areas at most risk of drought and water stress are LEDCs and so the population may be forced to move to survive
  6. The North Atlantic Current brings warm water north to the UK. An increase in melting polar ice may push this current further south preventing that warmer water reaching us. What are the likely consequences of this change for the UK?
    The shifting of the North Atlantic Current further south is often hypothesised as a possible reason for the next ice age. Countries on the same latitude as the UK and not affected by the current (Canada for example) have permafrost and much harsher winters
  7. What is the general trend in the change of seasons in the UK?
    Whilst summers and the growing season are getting longer, more frequent flooding and storm events are damaging crops and reducing the agricultural capacity
  8. How might global climate change impact the UK tourism-based economy in the short to medium term?
    As temperatures increase it is likely that Britain will see warmer summers and become more attractive to tourists. In the longer term the movement of the North Atlantic Current may reverse this trend
  9. Roughly how many people's lives are threatened by flooding due to rising sea levels?
    Low lying coastal areas and islands are at great risk. Many of the smaller atolls and islands will vanish if sea levels rise by more than half a metre
  10. Which of the following is not a reason why climate change would impact major UK cities in particular when compared to more rural areas?
    Flood barriers, such as the Thames Barrier, will prevent some flooding but many cities and towns are built on land that was previously marshland. Even a small rise in water levels will lead to flood events. Increased temperature may lead to increased pollution and diseases in population centres

Author: Ruth M

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