What’s in store for your habitat?

What’s going to happen to your habitat with a changing climate? I thought I’d skim through chapters 22 – 30 from IPCC report part II which deal with regional impacts. I actually wrote this quite a few months ago and never finished it but a recent post about the impacts of climate change at …and Then There’s Physics made me think I should just publish it as it is otherwise it might never happen.

It doesn’t include chapters 28 -30: polar regions, small islands, and the ocean. If I have time at some point, I’ll read these and publish something later. But I thought I’d publish this rather than having it sit as a draft for months on end.

AFRICA


It’s going to get very hot. Under a high emission scenario, Africa could see temperatures rise between 3° and 6° by the end of the century. Some parts will see less rain (Northern Africa and south-western parts of South Africa). These temperature and rainfall changes are very likely to reduce crop yields which will affect food security. Human health will take a hit with malnutrition in children expected to increase as well as vector- and water-borne diseases. Fisheries will suffer because of ocean acidification and warming. Food production in Africa is already very vulnerable to changes in climate because of the predominantly rain-fed agriculture and the poverty, both of which will make adaptation difficult.

 

EUROPE


For Europe, it’s a story of two halves: the north and the south (hint: the North gets a better deal!).

It’ll get wetter in Northern Europe and dryer in Southern Europe. There will be more extremes of temperature, more droughts, more heavy rainfall events as well as more frequent and intense heat waves. Economic activity in Southern Europe will take a hit through impacts on tourism, agriculture, forestry, infrastructure, energy and human health. Sea level rise and extreme rainfall will increase the risk of flooding near coasts and rivers. Tourism to Southern Europe is expected to decrease while tourism to Northern Europe will increase. Low altitude ski resorts – this is obvious! – are going to have problems.

Crop yields in Northern Europe will increase while in Southern Europe they will decrease. Cows living in Southern Europe will likely suffer heat stress which will affect the production of dairy products. Ticks and insects that carry diseases will spread northwards; this is already happening. Wine production in Southern Europe will decrease while increasing in Northern Europe.

Heat-related deaths will increase, particularly in the south.

Important landmarks and historical places and buildings may be damaged by sea level rise.

 

ASIA


Asia can look forward to more warm days and fewer cold days. They’ve also got water scarcity on the cards, but not so much because of climate change but because of the huge population which, through improvements in standards of living, will demand more water. Food production varies by region: most areas will see lower yields for rice but some regions, northern and eastern Kazakhstan for instance, will see cereal production increase. Who wants to live in Kazakhstan, though? Rice grown in low-lying areas will be inundated by rising seas.

Coral reefs are already being affected by rising seas and ocean acidification. This will continue during the next century.

Human health will be affected by heat waves, the spread of diseases like dengue fever and malaria, floods and drought destroying crops and increasing the price of food for the rural poor.

 

AUSTRALIASIA


Australia and New Zealand are discussed here: my country of origin and my current home. So this bit is particularly interesting for me.

It’s going to get very hot. There will be more hot extremes and fewer cold extremes. Sea-surface temperatures are going up. South and Western Australia can expect less rain and so can the north-east of New Zealand’s South Island and the northern and eastern North Island. The snow line is rising (bad news for skiers). Tropical cyclones are expected to increase in intensity – YAY! The risk of fire to most of Southern Australia and many parts of New Zealand will increase.

The frequency and severity of heat waves, floods, fires, and drought will increase. High sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification will damage coral reefs (already happening), freshwater resources are expected to decline, and rising seas will cause erosion and damage to low-lying ecosystems. Many native species will face extinction.

Some regions may benefit. There’ll be less demand for heating in winter in New Zealand and parts of Australia. There might also be benefits for spring pasture growth in cooler regions from which livestock feed.

New Zealand is very dependent on agriculture. It makes up about 56% of total exports and almost half of this is dairy products. Agriculture is very sensitive to changes in climate so if something were to happen to agricultural productivity in New Zealand then this would have an enormous economic impact. It could also be felt globally as New Zealand makes up 40% of the world trade in dairy products. Climate change impacts in New Zealand could therefore affect food security globally.

 

North America


More hot days, fewer cold days, earlier snow-melt, increases in rainfall over the north and decreases in rainfall over the south. There will be a net decline in crop yields (with no adaptation) which, given that North America contributes significantly to global food supplies, could affect global food security. Adaptation will offset some of these declines but only up to about 4°C. Salmon stocks may decline by 20 to 50% by 2040-50 in the Pacific Northwest.

Heat waves, storms, floods and climate-influenced diseases will affect human health. Drought is causing and will continue to cause forest dieback in Canada, US and Mexico while warmer temperatures are shifting the range of forest-eating insects to higher latitudes and altitudes.

There will be damage to infrastructure from extreme events. Fires and insect outbreaks are a threat to Canada and the US while millions of Mexicans will see already stressed water resources diminish. Add to these, coastal flooding and erosion, and ocean acidification.

 

Central and South America


More rainfall for Southeastern South America and less rainfall for Central America and Central-Southern Chile. Glaciers in the Andes are retreating and will continue to do so. Areas projected to get less rainfall are at risk of water shortages which will affect cities, hydropower generation and agriculture. Political and legal reforms to better manage water supplies are considered to be important adaptive measures here.

The rate of species extinction will increase. Sea level rise will be a threat to fish stocks, corals, tourism and disease control. Crop yields for sugar cane and soy are expected to benefit from higher CO2.

Extensive poverty across the region increases vulnerability and changes in weather and climatic patterns are already having a negative affect on human health in Central America and South America. Climate-related health impacts include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, leishmaniasis, cholera, hantaviruses and rotaviruses, chronic kidney diseases, and psychological trauma.

7 thoughts on “What’s in store for your habitat?

  1. In reading this another nasty has occurred to me. Shortages tend to cause wars. Still, you now me by now, I believe we endure and improve. I just wish it wasn’t so painful.

    1. Graham, this is a huge concern and not one that military personnel around the world are ignoring. Politicians might be ignoring climate change, but the military is not. A recent article in the NYTimes says:

      The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

      1. Quite so. I only hope that they handle it well and without any knee jerk response or vested interest. Eisenhower said, in his last address as president in 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”. He was a smart cookie.

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