What are the effects of climate change?

Climate change destabilises the Earth’s temperature equilibrium and has far-reaching effects on human beings and the environment. During the course of global warming, the energy balance and thus the temperature of the earth change, due to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases, which has a significant impact on humans and the environment.

It is not scientifically possible to assign individual weather events to the current climate change, however, it can be statistically proven that global warming will increase the probability of extreme weather events. 

The direct consequences of man-made climate change include:

  • rising maximum temperatures
  • rising minimum temperatures 
  • rising sea levels 
  • higher ocean temperatures 
  • an increase in heavy precipitation (heavy rain and hail)
  • shrinking glaciers
  • thawing permafrost

The indirect consequences of climate change, which directly affect us humans and our environment, include: 

  • an increase in hunger and water crises, especially in developing countries
  • health risks through rising air temperatures and heatwaves 
  • economic implications of dealing with secondary damage related to climate change 
  • increasing spread of pests and pathogens
  • loss of biodiversity due to limited adaptability and adaptability speed of flora and fauna  
  • ocean acidification due to increased HCO3 concentrations in the water as a consequence of increased CO₂ concentrations
  • the need for adaptation in all areas (e.g. agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, tourism, etc.)

. As the global climate is a highly interconnected system that is influenced by many different factors, the consequences usually result in positive or negative feedback effects. This refers to developments that are self-enhancing due to the occurrence of certain conditions. 

A common example is the ice-albedo feedback, which refers to the melting of the polar caps. According to this, extensive ice surfaces have a cooling effect on the global climate, as a high proportion of radiation is reflected. As a result of the global rise in the average temperature, however, these ice surfaces begin to melt, the ice surfaces shrink and the amount of reflected radiation is reduced. At the same time, the area of land or ocean that has a significantly lower albedo will increase, reflecting less radiation and thus intensifying the actual cause of glacier melt. 
Furthermore, scientists can calculate the so-called tipping points of individual subsystems of the global climate. The higher the global rise in temperature, the more the climate system is affected, so that at a certain point, despite significant efforts, a reversal in the process is no longer possible. Where exactly these tipping points can be found, however, is currently still unclear and can only be calculated with a great degree of uncertainty. Such tipping points are expected for the melting of the polar caps and for the stability of important ocean currents.

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