Climate change

It had been long debated whether it existed and whether rising temperatures globally were due to natural occurrences or were triggered by human activity. Human caused climate change today is accepted as such in science and thus is reality.

Today, our world is hotter than it has been in two thousand years. By the end of the century, if current trends continue, the global temperature will likely climb higher than at any time in the past two million years. There is a broad scientific consensus that humanity is in large part responsible for this change, and that choices we make today will decide the climate of the future.

Climate change is already having an impact on the number of environmental refugees. According to a Tearfund report, there are already an estimated 25 million environmental refugees resulting from changing rain patterns, floods, storms and rising tides and this figure is likely to rise significantly. Developing nations will be particularly affected. It is clear that many of the world’s poorest people are likely to suffer the most from climate change according to the IPCC reports.

Impacts per topic:
Changing sea levels and temperatures. Rising sea levels would swamp some small, low-lying island states and put millions of people in all low-lying areas at risk of flooding.

Extreme weather. (floods, droughts and tropical storms, etc) will become more frequent and more violent.

Plants and animals. If global temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius, 30 per cent of all land-living species will be threatened by an increased risk of extinction.

Food and water. As temperatures increase and rainfall patterns change, crop yields are expected to drop significantly in Africa, the Middle East and India. Less water will be available. Salt-water intrusion from rising sea levels. More droughts and water shortages.

Disease. With rising temperatures, diseases such as malaria, West Nile disease, dengue fever and river blindness will shift to different areas.

Rainforests. Reductions in rainfall in these areas –on top of the forest already being cut down or burned to clear land for agriculture –will lead to even greater reduction of these forests.

Vulnerable areas. Damaged areas - such as overgrazed rangeland, deforested mountainsides, and denuded agricultural soils - will be more vulnerable than previously to changes in climate.

Developing countries.The effects of climate change are expected to be greatest in developing countries in terms of loss of life and relative effects on investment and economy. Livelihoods built for generations on particular patterns of farming may quickly become impossible. Similarly, the world's vast human population, much of it poor, is vulnerable to climate stress. Millions live in dangerous places -- on floodplains or in shantytowns on exposed hillsides around the enormous cities of the developing world. Often there is nowhere else for them to go. In the distant past, man and his ancestors migrated in response to changes in habitat. There will be much less room for migration this time around.

Early March 2009, the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the relationship between climate change and human rights was published online and can be found here (advance unedited version in English). The report will be made available in all six United Nations languages prior to the tenth session of the Human Rights Council (2-27 March 2009).

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