Regional Climate Impacts
Climate change will affect different parts of the world differently. People living near the coast or by rivers are vulnerable to climate change due to enhanced risk of flooding. Those with livelihoods tied to climate-sensitive resources, such as farmers, are also at risk. However, scientists cannot yet predict exactly where and when the effects of climate change will become evident.
Climate change highlights disparities in wealth and development. The developing world faces the greatest risks from climate change. Many people in these nations struggle for survival and may have difficulty adapting to changes in the climate. Lessening climate change would help people in developing countries to sustain their livelihoods.
Stresses caused by a changing climate will exacerbate stresses that are already present in any given region. For example, deforestation in the Himalayas is already causing flooding in downstream areas. Climate change can worsen those effects by accelerated glacier melting.
Reduced rainfall and higher temperatures will cause water shortages and harm harvests, endangering the livelihoods of many people. Food supplies will become scarcer and more costly as climate change lowers crop production and shrinks the land suitable for agriculture.
Rising sea level and warming waters threaten coastal settlements and fragile ecosystems. Both lakes and the seas will have warmer water, reducing catches and raising the risk of hunger.
Flooding in the Himalayas is likely to increase due to more glacial melt and in the Asian monsoon region due to increased rainfall intensity. This will add additional flooding already exacerbated by deforestation in the region. Along the Southeast coast, flooding will increase due to sea-level rise. Declining crop production will cause food shortages.
Illnesses, injuries, and deaths associated with droughts and flooding are likely to rise, as extreme events become more frequent. Water supplies will be strained by a rapidly growing and developing population, especially in increasingly urbanized areas.
The Great Barrier Reef off Australia and other ecosystems will lose biodiversity. As the population living in coastal areas grows, more people will be affected by sea level rise and flooding.
Droughts and wildfires will depress agricultural production over most of the region except for western New Zealand, where production may initially increase due to warmer and wetter conditions prevailing over a longer growing season.
Declining water supplies will diminish hydropower production, tourism and crop production in Southern Europe. This region will also have increased health risks from heat waves and more frequent wildfires. Central and Eastern Europe will experience similar effects.
Climate change may benefit Northern Europe in some ways by reducing demand for heating energy and increasing crop and forest growth at least in the next several decades. However, the negative effects, such as flooding and damage to natural ecosystems, will likely outweigh the benefits as the 21st century progresses.
More heat waves and shifting locales for insects that carry diseases will impair human health. Changes in temperature and soil moisture will alter the characteristic plants and animals.
Altered precipitation patterns will affect how much water can be used for household, agricultural, and electrical generation purposes. Along the coasts, warmer water temperatures will threaten fisheries, and rising sea-
levels will flood low-lying areas.
Water supplies in the western United States will become scarcer, in part due to decreased winter snow pack. Forests will be prone to wildfires and invasive species. Droughts will parch large areas in the southern United States.
Cities will experience longer and more frequent heat waves, which will imperil human health, especially for the poor and elderly. Large coastal cities also face more damage from flooding due to sea level rise.
Melting glaciers and ice sheets affect natural ecosystems, harming birds, plants, and mammals, and providing opportunity for more foreign species invade. Warming temperatures and melting sea ice will reduce heating costs and open more navigable shipping routes.
Climate change will affect the traditional way of life in many Arctic communities.
Regardless of where small islands are located, they are extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise and enhanced flooding. Rising water and coastal erosion will undermine coral reefs and fishing and tourism industries. Some islands may need to be evacuated.
Climate change will shrink water resources on small islands in the tropics. For islands in higher latitudes it will damage ecosystems by providing habitat for more invasive species.