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refers to any distinct change in measures of climate lasting for a long period of time, including major changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns lasting for decades or longer. Climate change may result from:
natural factors, such as changes in the Sun’s energy or slow changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun;
natural processes within the climate system (e.g., changes in ocean circulation);
human activities that change the atmosphere’s make-up (e.g, burning fossil fuels) and the land surface (e.g., cutting down forests, planting trees, building developments in cities and suburbs, etc.).
The greenhouse effect is a natural process that sees the Earth's atmosphere insulate the Earth.
Incoming solar radiation (short-wave radiation) is absorbed at the Earth's surface. The Earth's climatic system then redistributes this energy around the globe, through atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Energy is then radiated back from the Earth's surface into the atmosphere as long-wave radiation
Over time there is an approximate balance in this incoming (short-wave) and outgoing (long-wave) radiation. Changes to this balance, such as changes in the amount of radiation received or lost by the system, or changes to the distribution cycles within the system, can affect climate.
The heating of the Earth's surface and atmosphere affects these climate variables to produce extreme weather and climate events.
Climate change is already being observed in a range of climate variables , such as: temperature, rainfall, atmospheric moisture, snow cover, land and sea ice, sea level, wind patterns and ocean circulation patterns.
Global warming increases the likelihood it will be hot or very hot and decreases, but does not eliminate, the likelihood it will be cold or very cold. Source: IPCC, 2007
Past and projected global average sea level. The gray shaded area shows the estimates of sea level change from 1800 to 1870 when measurements were not available. The red line is a reconstruction of sea level change measured by tide gauges with the surrounding shaded area depicting the uncertainty. The green line shows sea level change as measured by satellite. The purple shaded area represents the range of model projections for a medium growth emissions scenario (IPCC SRES A1B). For reference 100mm is about 4 inches. Source: IPCC, 2007
The supply and cost of food may change as farmers and the food industry adapt to new climate patterns. A small amount of warming coupled with increasing CO2 may benefit certain crops, plants and forests, although the impacts of vegetation depend also on the availability of water and nutrients. For warming of more than a few degrees, the effects are expected to become increasingly negative, especially for vegetation near the warm end of its suitable range.
: Warmer temperatures may result in higher energy bills for air conditioning in summer, and lower bills for heating in winter. Energy usage is also connected to water needs. Energy is needed for irrigation, which will most likely increase due to climate change. Also, energy is generated by hydropower in some regions, which will also be impacted by changing precipitation patterns.
: If you live along the coast, your home may be impacted by sea level rise and an increase in storm intensity. Rising seas may contribute to enhanced coastal erosion, coastal flooding, loss of coastal wetlands, and increased risk of property loss from storm surges.
Air pollution - a reduction in the cold, calm winter weather associated with winter air pollution episodes together with reduced emissions of key pollutants including particles, oxides of nitrogen and sulphurdioxide could lead to a reduction (up to 50%) in the adverse health effects of winter air pollution.
A small overall increase in the number of summer ozone episodes coupled with a longer-term increase in background levels of ozone could cause a rise in the number of premature deaths.
Ozone levels dependent on pollution control in Europe
Between 2003 – 2020, increase in ozone levels will result in a 51-53% increase in attributable deaths and hospital admissions for respiratory diseases, threshold assumptions of 35-50ppb (attributable to climate change)
• UV exposure – levels of UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface may increase due to sunnier summers,
a decline in cloud cover and ozone depletion (which
reduces the capacity of the ozone layer to absorb UV).
predicted an extra 5,000 cases of skin cancer and 2,000 of cataract per year by 2050.
Incidence of ‘All Skin Cancer’ England and Wales 1993-2002, and projections to 20251 Males, Females and all persons Directly aged standardised registration rates (DSR) Source: Health & Social Care Information Centre (2006). Compendium of Clinical & Health Indicators / Clinical & Health Outcomes Knowledge Base http://www.nchod.nhs.uk Note: International Classification of Disease and related health problems (ICD) definition of all skin cancers - ICD9 172-173, ICD10 C43-C44. Males Persons Females Year 1 Exponential projections based on data for the ten years 1993-2002
Water-borne disease – climate change might increase levels of cryptosporidium and campylobacter in water.
Secure sanitation systems should safeguard supplies of drinking water, but possible contamination of stormwater outflows could carry disease into basements and nearby rivers, affecting the health of residents and river users.