by alyssa

What exactly are the effects of climate change and how does it alter our day to day lives? Thanks for your question Alyssa, the answer may be a bit lengthy but here goes…

Answer from Climate-change-wisdom
There are two groups of climate change effects.

The physical effects are to do with how the weather will change and what that means for nature.

Then there are the social and economic effects on us.

Both are important.

The physical effects are the result of a change in the amount of energy from the sun that the earth absorbs and retains.

When climate changes, the general effects will be that:

  • local and global weather patterns will be different - we cannot rely on the rains, temperatures and extreme events to happen in the ways they have in the known past

  • oceans will change their volume and patterns of circulation with implications for sea level and the weather on coats and islands

  • glaciers will retreat and advance

  • snow cover will change its extent and persistence with direct effects on meltwater and the earth’s albedo

These general effects will result in some specific effects. Here are some of them, presented here in no special order:
  • changes to ocean currents

  • melting glaciers

  • change in frequency and intensity of wild fires

  • size, shape and thickness of ice caps

  • ocean acidification

  • severe weather events including severe storms and cyclones

  • drought

  • sea surface temperature changes

  • snow cover

  • desertification

  • rising sea levels

Some of these effects are events (wild fires, severe storms, drought) that will change in their intensity or frequency depending on where you are in the world.

Others are more pervasive across time and/or space (ocean currents, ocean acidification, snow cover, rising sea levels) and these will have both direct and knock on effects and consequences on nature.

The most serious are the effects that generate positive feedback, where the effect has itself an impact on climate change, especially on global warming. For example, methane released from melting permafrost peat bogs (arctic methane release) will further increase the greenhouse effect and warm things up even more.

So these are some of the physical effects.

There will also be a climate change effect on human economic and social systems. There will be impacts on:
  • human health

  • migration patterns

  • economic development

  • agricultural production

  • insurance

  • transport

To name a few.

This is because our social and economic systems, if not always our wealth, are still tied to how the environment performs for us.

How easy is it to grow crops, herd stock, produce timber, find a place to live and to move around the place can be made easier or harder by the weather and its patterns.

So far it has been the physical factors that have dominated debate on the climate change effects. Look out for the social and the economic effects to be more prevalent in the future.

So how does climate change affect our day to day lives?

Pretty badly if you get caught in a cyclone - but that might have happened without climate change.

More likely it will hardly be noticeable. The effects will be seen in small and quite subtle ways, mostly in the extra cost we will have to pay to make sure that the environment can cope with the physical climate change but still provide us with all the food and water we need.

July 2011

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