People around the world are facing extreme weather. From more dangerous floods and storms, to droughts and heatwaves, extreme weather events are growing in frequency and intensity. We’re loading more and more heat into the air and seas, upping the risks, costing trillions of dollars, and mounting an even bigger toll on people, with the poorest the most exposed.
Climate change is a health emergency. Extremes of heat, more intense drought, ferocious storms, and more torrential downpours are already undermining human health and security. We risk undoing years of public health gains if we let global warming get away. Climate change and our continued dependence on dirty energy are polluting our air, increasing the spread of disease, fuelling food insecurity and malnutrition, and making water supplies scarcer and less safe. A world of more than 2°C would see an increasing number of people move across borders, exacerbate inequity, and raise the risk of conflict and social strife.
The oceans are warming and acidifying. People and wildlife depend on the healthy oceans: a vital source of livelihoods and sustenance. The oceans have absorbed most of extra heat and carbon dioxide (CO2) so far—more than the air—making the seas both warmer and more acidic. Warming waters are bleaching coral reefs and driving stronger storms. Rising ocean acidity threatens shellfish, including the tiny crustaceans without which marine food chains would collapse.
The ice is melting and the seas are rising. Sea ice in the Arctic is shrinking before our eyes with summer sea ice expected to virtually disappear before 2050. This would have dangerous consequences for global weather, not to mention degrade the region’s marvelous ecosystem. In the Antarctic and Arctic, massive ice shelves are disintegrating and breaking away. Glaciers are retreating at alarming rates worldwide, threatening a sea-level rise of several metres by century’s end.
Our ecosystems are in peril. As climate change wreaks havoc across the globe, ecosystems could undergo serious and irreversible changes, and even disappear altogether. The increase in average temperatures will see optimal habitats for many species move higher up mountains and further towards the poles. Where there is no higher ground or where changes are taking place too quickly, local losses or even global extinctions will follow.