The impact of global warming

The impact of
global warming

Greenhouse effect

is a warming of the lower atmosphere and surface of a planet by a complex process involving sunlight, gases, and particles in the atmosphere. On the earth, the greenhouse effect began long before human beings existed. However, recent human activity may have added to the effect. The amounts of heat-trapping atmospheric gases, called greenhouse gases, have greatly increased since the mid-1800's, when modern industry became widespread. Since the late 1800's, the temperature of the earth's surface has also risen. The greenhouse effect is so named because the atmosphere acts much like the glass roof and walls of a greenhouse, trapping heat from the sun.

Causes of climate change
Impact Global Warming
Limited Global Warming
Agreement on global warming
Analyzing global warming
Kyoto Protocol
Greenhouse effect
Scientific research
Why climates vary
Ocean problems
Southern Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Ozone hole
Environmental problems by petroleum
Changes in the atmosphere
Increasing Temperatures
Can Earth Explode ?
NASA Study
El Nino
The Procedure Of Implementation Afforestation And Reforestation Project Under The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) In Indonesia
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries


Continued global warming could have many damaging effects. It might harm plants and animals that live in the sea. It could also force animals and plants on land to move to new habitats. Weather patterns could change, causing flooding, drought, and an increase in damaging storms. Global warming could melt enough polar ice to raise the sea level. In certain parts of the world, human disease could spread, and crop yields could decline.

Harm to ocean life.
Through global warming, the surface waters of the oceans could become warmer, increasing the stress on ocean ecosystems, such as coral reefs. High water temperatures can cause a damaging process called coral bleaching. When corals bleach, they expel the algae that give them their color and nourishment. The corals turn white and, unless the water temperature cools, they die. Added warmth also helps spread diseases that affect sea creatures.

Changes of habitat.
Widespread shifts might occur in the natural habitats of animals and plants. Many species would have difficulty surviving in the regions they now inhabit. For example, many flowering plants will not bloom without a sufficient period of winter cold. And human occupation has altered the landscape in ways that would make new habitats hard to reach or unavailable altogether.

Weather damage.
Extreme weather conditions might become more frequent and therefore more damaging. Changes in rainfall patterns could increase both flooding and drought in some areas. More hurricanes and other tropical storms might occur, and they could become more powerful.

Rising sea level.
Continued global warming might, over centuries, melt large amounts of ice from a vast sheet that covers most of West Antarctica. As a result, the sea level would rise throughout the world. Many coastal areas would experience flooding, erosion, a loss of wetlands, and an entry of seawater into freshwater areas. High sea levels would submerge some coastal cities, small island nations, and other inhabited regions.

Threats to human health.
Tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue, might spread to larger regions. Longer-lasting and more intense heat waves could cause more deaths and illnesses. Floods and droughts could increase hunger and malnutrition.

Changes in crop yields.
Canada and parts of Russia might benefit from an increase in crop yields. But any increases in yields could be more than offset by decreases caused by drought and higher temperatures-particularly if the amount of warming were more than a few degrees Celsius. Yields in the tropics might fall disastrously because temperatures there are already almost as high as many crop plants can tolerate.

Michael D. Mastrandrea, B.S., Graduate Fellow, School of Earth Sciences, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University. Stephen H. Schneider, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University.

Additional resources

Christianson, Gale E.Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming. Walker, 1999. Godrej, Dinyar.The No-Nonsense Guide to Climate Change. Verso, 2001. Johansen, Bruce E.The Global Warming Desk Reference. Greenwood, 2002. Stein, Paul.Global Warming. Rosen Pub. Group, 2001. Younger readers. -

Source : World Book 2005.


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