“The Inuit see this and the world should know this...”
“It’s happening right before our eyes” — 23-year-old Jordan Konek is one of the native people of the Canadian Arctic. He told this to the 2011 Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Native people in the Arctic see changes much more than people in lower latitudes. More warming is occurring in the polar regions.
How Will Climate Change in the Future?
Earth’s temperature will keep rising unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed. The temperature in 2100 may be as much as 5° C (9° F) higher than it was in 2000. Is 5° C (9° F) a lot? It's more than the increase in temperature from the the times of maximum ice during the Pleistocene to now. Since the end of the Pleistocene the temperature has only risen about 4° C. That's just 4° C from abundant ice to the moderate climate we have today. How might a 5° C increase in temperature affect Earth in the future?
Warming will affect the entire globe by the end of this century. The graph in the Figure below shows the predicted average temperature change from eight different models. Remember that climate models are complicated. Different models have different inputs and so have different results. Nonetheless, all eight models show temperatures rising a lot. While the graph shows the temperature change averaged across the entire world, the map in the Figure below shows how much temperatures will change in different regions based on the Hadley Centre model. In what two places is the temperature increase the greatest? Where in the United States is the temperature increase the highest?
The Arctic and the Amazon basin will experience the greatest temperature changes.
What Will Happen
As temperature rises, more sea ice will melt. Figure below shows how much less sea ice there may be in 2050 if temperatures keep going up. This would cause sea level to rise even higher. Some coastal cities could be under water. Millions of people would have to move inland. How might other living things be affected?
In the 2050s, there may be only half as much sea ice as there was in the 1950s.
Weather will become more extreme. Heat waves and droughts will become more frequent and more intense. The Midwestern United States will become hot and dry. This will make growing food more difficult. Cropland worldwide will be affected. Hurricanes may become more severe.
Plants and animals will move or die out. Some will thrive in a warmer world, but most will not. The biosphere may become quite different.
These are only a few of the impacts warmer temperatures will have. The vast majority of scientists agree that this is what is happening.
- Global temperatures will increase. Some locations like the Arctic and Amazon will experience a greater increase.
- Sea level will rise and some coastal cities may be submerged.
- Weather will become more extreme. Crops and some plants and animals may not be able to survive the warmer temperatures.
Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.
Impacts of Climate Change: 1 to 6 Degrees at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfBMUd-Es0M (12:09)
- Describe the changes that could be seen if the Earth warms by 1 degree.
- What is the worry about climate change?
- Describe the effects of 2 degrees of warming.
- What changes will occur with 3 degrees of warming?
- Describe the consequences of 4 degrees of warming.
- What would probably occur if the world warms by 5 degrees?
- What group is likely to suffer the most from global warming?
- Describe the changes that could occur if the world is 6 degrees warmer.
- Pretend that the temperature today is 5° C (9° F)higher than yesterday. Now think about a 5° C (9° F) increase in average global temperature. How are these two things different?
- Why is a sea level rise important?
- What can plants and animals do as temperature rises?