Climate Change by Degree. An Overview of How Global Warming Will Affect the Planet
Scientists predict an increase in the average temperature of the planet’s surface of 1.4°C and 5.8°C by the close of this century.*
- +1°C warmer: deterioration of mountain glaciers and coral reefs, rain
forests, ice sheets in Greenland, US midwest arable farmland; 10%
productivity loss in Bangladeshi farming – a loss of 4m tonnes ($2.5bn)
of food grain, or 2% of GDP.
- +2°C warmer: forests destroyed by insects normally dead in winter;
polar bears endangered; some Pacific islands completely submerged.
- +3°C warmer: the tipping point, according to scientists; extinction
of thousands of species; Category-6 hurricanes now the regular norm,
not the exception.
- +4°C warmer: population migration as refugees escape famine and
draught-stricken regions; general sea levels rise by up to 48 inches,
destroying coastal cities.
- +5°C warmer: vast regions are now uninhabitable, with many millions on
- +6°C warmer: a return to how the Earth looked 65 million years ago
during the dinosaur-inhabited Cretaceous period; most of the planet
is now desert.
*Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
How Climate Change Will Have an Economic Impact on Society
Britain’s own challenges
According to an October 2013 report conducted by the Government and the consultant PwC, climate change due to global warming will have a induced changes in the infrastructures of developing countries. As patterns of global crop farming are altered, for example, supplies of food and raw materials are likely to recede. This in turn will mean ever-higher prices and the potential for instability and civil unrest.
Damage to agricultural production is already contributing internationally to deaths from diseases associated with poverty and malnutrition, whilst air pollution due to fossil fuel use is contributing to around 4.5m deaths every year*. By 2030, floods, draughts and the most severe storms could remove 2% from US GDP*.
In China, this cost could be $1.2 trillion*. As international trade in the commodities and services crucial for business and shareholder value shrinks to a footnote, the preservation of a civil and thriving society can only be at the gravest possible risk.
- 400,000 deaths annually from climate change is wiping 1.6% per
year from global GDP*
- Cost to the world economy of climate change is almost $1.3 trillion*
- Within less than 16 years the cost to global GDP of air pollution
and climate change will increase to 3.2%*
- The GDP of developing countries is expected to fall by more
*Source: DARA, Climate Vulnerable Forum
Perhaps most visibly and frequently, climate change in Britain finds expression in flooding. Winter 2013-14 has been especially challenging, with thousands of people watching helplessly as huge storms have breached inadequate flood defences and wrought appalling damage to their homes and businesses.
Yet as long ago as 2006, the insurance industry identified flood damage in many high-risk areas as uninsurable. In the six years prior to a report by AXA Insurance on how climate change affects SMEs, weather-related damage claims cost the British insurance sector more than £9 billion. Of this, over £2.5 billion was business-related. The report also forecast that sea-level rises would directly threaten an estimated three million people in the UK, and that business hubs and population centres, among them London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Newcastle, Norwich and Peterborough, may all risk flooding.. The economic consequences should we fail to arrest the march of climate change would be incalculable.
“In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today – more serious even than that of terrorism.”
Prof Sir David King, former UK Chief Scientific Advisor
Investment in Renewable Energy for a Low Carbon Economy
The UK Government has said that investment in renewables worth Ј110bn must be made by 2020, a stipulation discussed in the National Audit Office report ‘The Government’s long term plans to deliver secure, low carbon and affordable electricity’. With an existing generating capacity of 90GW, DECC states some 30GW of new generating capacity will have to be built by 2020 to maintain security of supply and avoid the risk of power cuts. There are also statutory targets: in addition to the £110bn investment, by 2050 UK greenhouse gas emissions must be at least 80% from 1990 levels – a situation that can only be achieved by way of full decarbonisation before 2040.
Europe’s fastest growing energy market is for renewables*.
With technology fully proven, significant upscaling in the last few years has increased the cost-competitiveness of renewable energy, with less market volatility in relation to its fossil-derived equivalent.
Since 2005, global investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart energy technologies has exceeded $1 trillion. And a genuine low carbon economy is believed to be within reach. But to meet global 2020 emissions reduction targets and place a brake on climate change, continuation of this investment trend is vital. It can only be done with renewables.
*Source: International Energy Agency, Medium Term Market