The impacts of climate change are with us now and are predicted to be wide and varied in the future.
* Snow cover is decreasing in areas of marginal snowfall (Australian Alps) and increasing in other areas due to a rise in temperature. Ironically warmer temperature brings more moisture into the air bringing more snowfall in areas that were previously very cold with low snowfall.
* Frozen ground in northern hemisphere high latitudes (Siberia) – the so-called permafrost is now thawing. As it does so, it’s releasing greenhouse gases from the soil and wetlands underneath. This is what’s called a feedback mechanism. It’s also causing buildings to collapse and roads to break apart in Siberia and Alaska.
* Mountain glaciers are shrinking. The European Alps have halved in size since 1850. The loss of glaciers and the resulting flow of melt water in the Andes and the Himalayan region is having massive impacts on the populations that rely on their flow. (Most of India’s and China’s major rivers flow from the Himalayan glaciers providing water to more than two billion people.)
* Over in China the eastern gateway to the Silk Road – the Hexi corridor – is being flooded as the glaciers that surround it melt away. Like in other places around the world, arid regions that sit next to glaciers will suffer a spate of floods and will then dry up completely when the glaciers melt away.
* The melting ice cap at the North Pole is shrinking the habitat of seals, walruses and polar bears. This ice reflects the sunlight back into space. No ice means no reflection – more heat is absorbed by the ocean melting more ice. Another feedback mechanism that is exacerbating climate change rates.
* Greenland and Antarctica are both shedding ice, adding to sea level rises. There was a major collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in Antarctica in 2002. It was predicted to remain stable until 2100.
* Heatwaves have increased in frequency and severity. This leads to an increase in bushfires intensity, heat-related deaths and pressure on emergency services. Adelaide had its first official November heatwave ever in 2009. Melbourne had an unprecedented 10 days in a row over 30 degrees in March 2013.
* Drought has increased in number and frequency. The Murray darling system is being loved to death and is slowly dying as governments, irrigators and those who care for our future generations are unable to agree on a course of action to save the river.
* Sea levels are currently rising by 3mm per year. It is estimated that there will be more than 200 million climate refugees due to rising sea levels by 2100.
* We are also experiencing heavier rainfall, drier droughts and more destructive winds.
* As oceans soak up more and more Carbon (around 25%) they become more acidic. This makes it harder for creatures that make shells to make them.
Watch the news and tick off the extraordinary or seasonally unusual weather events – the hottest night, the wettest summer, the mildest winter, once in 100 year…
The hottest 10 years since measurements began have occurred in the last two decades. Each decade sine 1950 has been hotter than the last.