The effects of global warming can be dramatic
Forecasts predict that, if nothing is done, the temperature could increase by 5 °C by the end of the century, whereas the commitments on the negotiating table appear capable of limiting the temperature increase to 2.7 ºC. What might those increases mean? Predictions include higher temperatures, alterations in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and changes in precipitation and wind patterns; these are some of the global phenomena that will have significant regional impacts.
What does that mean specifically? It means droughts, but also floods and hurricanes. Effects which lead to loss of agricultural productivity, lower availability of drinking water, biodiversity losses... It is estimated that these phenomena will result in up to 200 million people having to leave their homes and migrate.
Let's focus on an issue that is particularly important to us: water. One of the immediate expected impacts is an increasing scarcity of drinking water: in the Mediterranean and southern Africa, due to intensification of drought and the consequent decrease in surface run-off (estimated at more than 30%) and, in large areas of China, India and the Andes, due to complete melting of the mountain glaciers that feed their rivers.
There are studies that measure the temperature increases that are necessary in order for these effects to be significant, but the actual timing is still uncertain. However, it is believed that global warming could lead to some abrupt or irreversible impacts, including flooding of low-lying areas as a result of the partial loss of polar land ice sheets, endangering such places as Bangladesh, Vietnam, London, New York, Tokyo, Cairo, and, of course, many small islands.
In fact, we are already beginning to suffer the effects of climate change. A sadly ironic example, in line with the increased frequency of extreme events observed since 1970, is the Philippines: while the country was still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the archipelago while COP19 was being held in Warsaw, it was hit by typhoon Hagupit in 2014 during COP20 in Lima. And it raises its voice and calls for help and appeals to the responsibility of the international community.
There should be absolutely no doubt about the need for action.
Guest post written by Carmen Becerril Martínez, External Director from ACCIONA, and Magdalena García Mora, Manager of Analysis of Energy policies and Climate Change from ACCIONA.