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Jun 14

Who is Climate Change Going to Affect Most?

Climate change is clearly a global problem. But its impact is not quite that indiscriminate- it affects some places more drastically than others. Low-lying areas are particularly susceptible to the floods wrought by rising sea-levels, whilst tropical cyclones are set to become an ever more frequent threat to locations perched precariously on the edge of oceans. And although it is in everyone’s interest to try to resolve these issues, certain parties have more reason to be concerned than others.

The threat: Rising sea levels

Because of increasing temperatures, thermal expansion of the water in the world’s oceans has been widespread. Without going into too much detail, thermal expansion is relatively self-explanatory – as temperatures increase, the particles that make up water garner more kinetic energy, causing the water to expand and occupy more space. Thermal expansion is not the sole culprit for rising sea levels however. Rising temperatures have also caused the extensive melting of ice caps and sheets all across the globe, culminating in a rise in sea levels.

The Maldives - climate change

The Maldives

Location at risk: The Maldives

Unsurprisingly, the lowest lying country on planet Earth’s entire existence is at the mercy of climate change. With an average ground level elevation of just 4ft 11 inches above sea level, the Maldives would be the first nation on Earth to be completely submerged. The UN’s environmental panel has estimated that the Maldives could well be uninhabitable by 2100 if current levels of pollution are to continue at the same rate. The submersible water pump is redundant in the face of rising sea levels unfortunately.

The threat: Increasing intensity of tropical cyclone activity

Although the research has not quite been confirmed as definitive, there is a mounting concern that global warming is increasing the intensity of tropical cyclone activity. Conventional thought seems to validate this speculation – the ocean’s surface temperature has to be above 26.5°C for a tropical cyclone to form, and the warmer the ocean, the more energy is available to be converted into a tropical cyclone.

Why the skepticism then? A complex set of colliding circumstances are required for a tropical cyclone to form (difference in sea and air temperatures, humidity and wind can all be culpable) making it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. There has nevertheless, been a marked uptick in the intensity of the strongest cyclones.

Phillippines – Typhoon Haiyan

Location at risk: The Philippines

Depending on the region in which they form, tropical cyclones are either known as hurricanes or typhoons. In one of the world’s most susceptible nations, the Philippines, tropical cyclones are known as typhoons, 20 of which threaten Filipino lives and homes every year. There are a multitude of reasons that make the Philippines so susceptible to natural disaster. As well as being positioned on the edge of an uninterrupted Pacific Ocean, they have the warmest ocean temperatures in the world – a combination that can only spell disaster.

The threat: Glacial retreat

The year-on-year rise of global temperatures has a dire effect on the world’s glaciers. With glacial retreat comes a variety of problems – the extinction of plant life is the least of it. Higher temperatures result in the degradation of permafrost layers, paving the way for rock falls and landslides.

The Alps

Location at risk: The Alps

One of the hardest-hit areas, which has been publicised in part due to its popularity, is the Alps. As with any glacier on the globe at the moment, the icy structures that constitute the Alps are suffering. The most recent figures estimate that 70% of the Alps’s snow cover will be lost by the turn of the century, which is testament to the sheer scale of the problem posed by climate change.

However, there remains a small glimmer of hope. If emissions are halved by 2050, the loss of snow cover can be limited to just 30%. Whilst it is a significant chunk, it is a good deal better than the 70% predicted; a figure that can only be avoided through a commitment to reduce carbon emissions. The same is true of all threats arising from climate change, and a uniformly conscientious approach is the only way to combat it effectively.

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