We are at +1.0℃ today. What are the consequences?

The Earth is already 1°C hotter than it was 100 years ago [1]. This is the average increase across the whole world’s surface, but the land is warming much faster than the ocean [1]. For example, in part of the Puerto Rican rainforest, the average daily maximum temperature has increased by 2°C since 1970 [18]! A few degrees may not sound like much, but it is already having surprisingly severe effects on humans and wildlife [10].

Together with an increased average temperature, we are experiencing more frequent and severe heatwaves and storms: extremes are becoming more extreme [10,11], which is a major problem [12].

Heatwaves are killing animals and people [13]. For example, extremely high temperatures during Australian heatwaves have killed thousands of flying foxes [2]. Even back in 2003, climate change is thought to have increased the chance of death from the heatwave in Paris by 70% [14].

Similarly, droughts have become more frequent and severe [6]. This is killing people [16], trees [7], and is contributing to the drying of farmland, which in some cases has become unsuitable for growing crops or grazing animals due to climate change [15].

Another well-known effect of climate change is sea level rise [4]. Since 1900, the sea levels have increased by 20cm [4]. This may sound insignificant, but in some places it is already causing serious problems [17]. The state of Louisiana, in the USA, has lost nearly 5000 square kilometres of coastal land area since 1932 due to sea level rise [5]. Many people are already having to relocate due to sea level rise, such as in coastal villages in Fiji [17].

To find out how scientists predict the Earth will respond to 1.5°C, 2°C and 4°C of global warming, look out for our next few posts.

References

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