Global warming effects

Global warming effects are slow, incremental and mostly unwanted because they alter the environment.

Changes to rainfall, temperature, frequency and intensity of severe weather, shifts in seasonality, and other locally significant effects such as seal level rise and melting glaciers affect food security, our water supplies, economic stability, and in extreme case our lives.

The problem is that the effects of global warming are not immediate and obvious but creep up on us almost unoticed.

Drop a frog into a tub of hot water and it thrashes around in a desperate attempt to escape.

Drop a frog into a tub of cold water and it is happy. It swims around like any frog would. Heat the water in the tub and the frog swims around as it slowly cooks because it has no way to detect danger from the gradual increase in temperature.

Even though humans are much smarter than frogs our innate response to threats is similar.

As Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard explains, our big brains evolved to respond to threats that are

  • intentional
  • immoral
  • immanent
  • instantaneous

Our brains detect and tell our bodies how to respond to a snake in the grass, a lion on the prowl, the edge of a cliff or being confronted by a neighbor brandishing a spear.

The brain detects these threats in an instant and primes our bodies to fight or flee.

The effects of global warming include changes to the frequency, intensity and/or extent of
rising sea levels
wild fires
snow cover
ocean currents
ocean acidification

Along with changes to the weather that are there, but more subtle.

These global warming effects are

  • not intentional as they are just the physical consequences of energy dynamics that are mostly slow relative to human timeframes and difficult to predict.
  • not immoral as they have no basis in any cultural lexicon.

    We are not disgusted or repulsed by a 2 degree Celsius warming in global average temperature, perhaps just a little nervous at the uncertainty of the effects.

  • not immanent because the changes are eventual in their amount, frequency and/or intensity.

    We already have cyclones, droughts, heat waves, cold snaps and other extreme weather events. Global warming only makes these feature more or less intense sometime in the future.

  • not instant but gradual.

The effects creep along undetected just like the water heating up under the frog’s bowl.

Consequently we tend to react like the frog – as though nothing is happening.

This may not be very smart.

some coastal areas will be more vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surges

More on global warming effects

This section of climate change wisdom explores some of the climate effects through both the logic and the psychology.

Click through for more details on...

Anthropogenic global warming

Biodiversity loss

Causes of global warming




Economics of global warming


Global warming

Global warming facts

Global warming impact

Heat waves

History of global warming

Ice caps

Melting glaciers

Ocean acidification

Ocean currents


Polar bears and climate change

Rising sea levels

Scientific opinion climate change

Severe weather

Snow cover

Species loss


Wild fires

Back to top of Global warming effects | Back to Climate-change-wisdom home page

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

one effect will be an increase in wildfires — this one in the Blue Mountains, NSW Australia

Recent Articles

  1. Reducing emissions while looking for solutions...

    Nov 01, 15 04:46 PM

    I've seen a lot of post's online for ideas on reducing emissions. The one suggestion I have not seen, is the most obvious. There should be a government

    Read More

  2. Climate change evidence

    Mar 24, 15 06:22 AM

    Real climate change evidence has to demonstrate a change in climate. An extra sunny day or a severe storm or a flood is not enough.

    Read More

  3. The climate change effect

    Feb 19, 15 03:08 AM

    What will be the climate change effect? There isn't one, there are many. Perhaps too many for us to understand.

    Read More