Environmental Changes Expected

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As temperatures increase, experts say these trends will deepen. Over the next century, the IPCC predicts more extreme weather and more ice melts, accompanied by potentially devastating rises in sea levels. Weather changes will also include more severe heat waves, more drought and fires, and more frequent and intense storms, hurricanes, and cyclones.

Yet not all regions will be affected in the same way. The 2007 IPCC report, for example, says, "By mid-century, annual average river runoff and water availability are projected to increase by 10-40% at high latitudes and in some wet tropical areas, and decrease by 10-30% over some dry regions at mid-latitudes and in the dry tropics."24 Thus, dry regions of the world will get drier and see more frequent and larger fires, and wet regions will see more and bigger storms and increased risks from flooding. In the United States, the IPCC predicts an average 6 inches (0.15m) or less annual rainfall for the U.S. Southwest, increased annual rainfall for the U.S. Northeast, and fifty more (than average) days that never fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) for the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Particularly for the Southwest, these conditions could be devastating, creating an inhospitable desert climate for the millions of people who live there.

In addition, melting glaciers, sea ice, and snow, together with ocean expansion resulting from increased water temperatures, are expected to cause sea levels to rise dramatically. The IPCC climate models project that by the end of this century, the global average sea level will rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 58cm) above the 1980-1999 average. Even bigger changes are possible, however, if Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets melt faster than expected. In fact, the IPCC report states that the upper range for sea-level rise by 2100 is 31 inches (79cm). Yet even a relatively small sea-level rise could threaten coasts, cities, and low-lying islands around the world and cause flooding that could kill millions. As National Geographic magazine has explained:

Over a third of the world's population now lives within 62 miles (100 kilometers) of a shoreline, and 13 of the world's 20 largest cities are located on a coast. Unfortunately, the world's booming coastal population faces an uphill battle for survival against rising seas. As sea levels go up, wetland ecosystems suffer, saltwater contaminates aquifers, and catastrophic storms wreck coastal properties. Particularly vulnerable are low-lying lands and shallow islands. High-rise resorts perch precariously along shorelines of tiny Caribbean nations whose economies rely heavily on tourist dollars. In countries such as Bangladesh, where the flood-prone Ganges Delta is the breadbasket of the nation, the entire country—not just coastal dwellers—suffers from episodic inundation of crops. Saltwater intrusion on groundwater sources in the Marshall Islands has rendered aquifers useless. Louisiana is losing as much as 35 square miles (91 square kilometers) of wetlands a year to erosion. If sea levels continue to inch higher, the severity and frequency of the destruction will only increase.25

Flash floods caused by torrential rains, soil erosion, and rising sea levels cause problems for countries like Bangladesh, where a lot of the population lives near the shoreline.

Flash floods caused by torrential rains, soil erosion, and rising sea levels cause problems for countries like Bangladesh, where a lot of the population lives near the shoreline.

Many of these weather changes, such as increased wildfires, storms, and flooding, will likely occur even with just 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.56 degree Celsius) of additional warming, but a greater degree of warming in the higher ranges projected by the IPCC will cause even more serious problems. As Lynn Laws of the Iowa Environmental Council explains, "More than five degrees Fahrenheit will result in up to 3.2 billion people facing water shortages, 20% of the global population affected by flooding, and 3-8 times more heat waves in some cities."26

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Solar Panel Basics

Solar Panel Basics

Global warming is a huge problem which will significantly affect every country in the world. Many people all over the world are trying to do whatever they can to help combat the effects of global warming. One of the ways that people can fight global warming is to reduce their dependence on non-renewable energy sources like oil and petroleum based products.

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