Climate change and its consequences

Climate change and its consequences

What will happen if we continue like this?

Climate change is advancing relentlessly. In the past 30 years, weather-related disasters have occurred three times as frequently as before. The consequences are particularly devastating for people in developing countries, because they not only lose their possessions but, most of the time, their food situation also worsens too. 

Climate change is already here: Scientists estimate that 2015 will be the warmest year on record - and this is just the beginning. With the help of computer simulations, the effects of global warming on the climate can already be assessed. The current global warming of 0.8°C in average temperatures is expected to rise by 4°C or more by 2100 - with fatal consequences. For comparison: That would correspond to the temperature difference between the last ice age and today.

The environment and the animal world suffer with the climate, just as humans do: The rising heat affects our wellbeing. Air pollution, contaminated water and malnutrition as indirect climate consequences lead to more extensive problems. © Kopp
The environment and the animal world suffer with the climate, just as humans do: The rising heat affects our wellbeing. Air pollution, contaminated water and malnutrition as indirect climate consequences lead to more extensive problems. © Kopp
Peru is among the 10 countries of the world that are most threatened by climate change.
Peru is among the 10 countries of the world that are most threatened by climate change.
We need to include Loss & Damage Mechanism into Paris agreement and to ensure financing for developing countries.
We need to include Loss & Damage Mechanism into Paris agreement and to ensure financing for developing countries.

The climate is changing as a result of the human-made greenhouse effect: Despite a variety of measures for climate protection, the CO₂ emissions are not declining. The earth warms up due to the higher concentration of greenhouse gases, which leads to more water vapour in the atmosphere. This brings further climate consequences with it: heavy rains and stronger extreme weather events.

But there are big regional differences: The rain falls primarily in high geographical latitudes and parts of the tropics, while the subtropics suffer more aridity. The gap between humid and dry climates on the planet becomes larger, ecological systems are thrown out of equilibrium. 

Precipitation and rising sea levels 

The first consequences of climate change are being experienced now: 

  • The snow and ice volumes at the poles and glaciers are decreasing;

  • the level of the oceans is rising;

  • there are more heatwaves and periods of drought

  • as well as heavy rain and floods, due to hurricanes or typhoons. 

These changes have been observed since 1950 and are occurring increasingly frequently. What will happen if the effects of climatic change continue to increase? Who will they affect? How will life change - ours and that of people living in the poorest countries of the world?

  • Heatwaves, storms, droughts and forest fires: In May 2015, more than 2,200 people died in India during a ten-day heatwave with temperatures of 45°C. Climate-related disasters such as typhoons, hurricanes and storms claim human lives and cause immeasurable damage. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy brought a 2.7m high tidal wave into the heart of New York; the accompanying heavy rains wreaked serious crop damage in Haiti and Cuba and destroyed thousands of hectares of agricultural land. Researchers are warning of a super El Niño this year.

  • Plant world and harvests: Smaller harvests due to droughts and pest infestation lead to hunger and higher food prices. The cultivation areas for maize, potatoes, rice and wheat will shift in the future, the nutritional value of the food will potentially sink

  • Oceans and their eco-systems: Higher precipitation and melting of the sea ice changes the salt content of the water - more carbon dioxide acidifies the seas; corals and other sea animals die. Our freshwater and, thus, our drinking water resources are also affected. The coasts will be threatened by storm surges and need additional protection; island states lose more and more land mass.

Climate consequences affect people in developing countries particularly badly

In some parts of Asia and Africa, droughts have already increased in frequency and intensity over the last decades. Why poor countries are so susceptible to the consequences of global warming is explained fundamentally by their geographical location, in addition, by their vulnerability and limited possibilities for adaptation. 90 per cent of all people who were killed between 1970 and 2008 as a result of extreme weather lived in a developing country. They are much more susceptible to freak weather than we are, there is barely any protection and if rescue work takes place at all, it usually takes place very slowly.  

Many developing countries are strongly influenced by agriculture. Climatic changes have a direct impact on the availability of natural resources, the agricultural productivity and the quality of the food.

Contact
Michael Kühn

Michael Kühn

Sr Advisor Climate Change Policy

0228-2288 323

Information material

Study: effects of climate change on food security.
Case examples from Kenya, Pakistan and Peru.

Download abstract (German)

Download full study (German) 

Climate change conference Paris 2015:
Why we must make climate protection and climate goals obligatory now!

Our demands to the climate conference in Paris

How should climate protection and adaptation be financed?

More on the blog: Climate financing (German)

climate-migration-africa-cop21
Climate induced migration: COP 21 need to focus on African Youth

Consequences of climate change for developing countries

Does climate change lead to more hunger?

Does climate change lead to more hunger?

Due to their geographical location, global warming has so far had no drastic effects on the rich industrial nations - quite the opposite: Agriculture and viticulture are profiting from the higher temperatures and bringing in even higher yields than before. In other regions of the world, however, the risk of harvest losses increases as a result of storms, floods or drought periods. Find out more: The effects of climate change on the nutritional situation of people in developing countries.

More information
Disasters increase the risk of hunger

Disasters increase the risk of hunger

Welthungerhilfe provides disaster relief with planning and thought: If natural disasters directly threaten the lives of people, they are reliant on rapid and effective assistance. In the past two decades, climate-related disasters have increased worldwide. We support people to be better prepared for disasters. Find out more in the World Risk Report 2015.

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Researchers warn of super El Niño

Researchers warn of super El Niño

We cannot stop or influence El Niño, but we can prepare for it and reduce the disaster risk for people, in order to prevent a worst-case scenario. For many years, Welthungerhilfe and its partners have been supporting disaster prevention measures in currently threatened countries such as Peru, Haiti and Mozambique: Hillsides are planted, in order to prevent landslides; river bank are fortified, so that roads do not flood; people are trained in disaster management and educated in early warning and first aid groups.

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In future > More storm-proofing!

In future > More storm-proofing!

It was two years ago now that super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and left chaos and destruction in its wake. More than 6,000 people lost their life, more than 4.1 million their houses. Over the course of climate change, more and more natural disasters like this are to be expected. We are helping with the building of more storm-proof houses and schools.

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Land theft, forest clearance and co. We're continuing to heat up climate change.

Land theft, forest clearance and co. We're continuing to heat up climate change.

Humans make the effects of climate change even worse. Riverbanks are concreted, forests cleared and resources wasted. Important carbon stores such as forests, moorlands and soils are destroyed. Nature, livelihoods and food bases for people in developing countries are gradually being destroyed, so that they are almost entirely unprotected against the consequences of global warming. Land theft, or "land grabbing", leads to hunger, poverty and illness - families lose their land, their livelihood and become even more susceptible to climate changes.

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Climate refugees

Climate refugees

Scientists estimate that the number of climate refugees will rise to 200 million by the year 2050. Due to environmental changes, which are clearly associated with climate change (e.g. rising sea levels), due to existing problems, which are intensified by climate change (e.g. water shortages) and due to conflicts as a consequence of changes, people are forced to flee. Find out how we are helping refugees worldwide.

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Climate refugees: Flight from hunger 

The particular vulnerability of people who already live in poverty arises from the fact that their income, their livelihood, is directly dependent on agriculture, and that they are lacking the financial resources, know-how and structures to adapt to climate change. Scientists are expecting these serious climate change consequences in many developing countries:

  • Fresh water resources will dwindle.

  • Food production will decline. 

  • Dry seasons, famines and droughts will intensify.
     
  • The consequence will be increasing migration caused by environmental factors.

Many people will leave their homes, as the consequences of climate change make life there impossible for them. There will be an increase in climate refugees across the world.  

Change something now and leave behind a healthier earth!

Adapting to climate change and its consequences - people in developing countries are barely prepared for it. Even if global warming does not exceed the two-degree limit, this will mean the loss of agricultural areas and coastal settlements. If the 4°C mark is actually hit by 2100, the damage will rise exponentially: So-called "tipping elements" in the great earth system, like the polar ice sheets or the northern Amazon rainforest, are at risk of being shifted into a new state. The situation of people in poor countries will be visibly worsened. 

Besides the measures for climate protection that each individual can take, Welthungerhilfe is working in its projects, for example, on sustainable cultivation methods, providing for people who are already suffering from climate consequences and campaigning for global climate protection. It is time to change something - quickly and courageously.

Welthungerhilfe's 10 demands for COP21 - Climate Change Conference in Paris

More about climate change