Invest now or face ‘irreversible’ effects of climate change, U.N. panel warns
Steve Almasy, CNN
4 minute read
2:54 PM EST, Sun November 2, 2014
Melting polar ice caps —
The consequences of climate change go far beyond warming temperatures, which scientists say are melting the polar ice caps and raising sea levels. Click through the gallery for a look at 10 other key effects of climate change, some of which may surprise you.
Josef Friedhuber/Getty Images/File
In the coming decades climate change will unleash megadroughts lasting 10 years or more, according to a new report by scholars at Cornell University, the University of Arizona and the U.S. Geological Survey. We're seeing hints of this already in many arid parts of the world and even in California, which has been rationing water amid record drought. In this 2012 photo, a man places his hand on parched soil in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan.
Julien Behal/PA Wire/AP/File
There's not a direct link between climate change and wildfires, exactly. But many scientists believe the increase in wildfires in the Western United States is partly the result of tinder-dry forests parched by warming temperatures. This photo shows a wildfire as it approaches the shore of Bass Lake, California, in mid-September.
Coral reefs —
Scientists say the oceans' temperatures have risen by more than 1 degree Fahrenheit over the last century. It doesn't sound like much, but it's been enough to affect the fragile ecosystems of coral reefs, which have been bleaching and dying off in recent decades. This photo shows dead coral off the coast of St. Martin's Island in Bangladesh.
Majority World/UIG/Getty Images/File
Food prices —
A U.N. panel found in March that climate change -- mostly drought -- is already affecting the global agricultural supply and will likely drive upfood prices. Here, in 2010, workers on combines harvest soybeans in northern Brazil. Global food experts have warned that climate change could double grain prices by 2050.
Pollen allergies —
Are you sneezing more often these days? Climate change may be to blame for that, too. Recent studies show that rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels promote the growth of weedy plant species that produce allergenic pollen. The worst place in the United States for spring allergies in 2014, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America? Louisville, Kentucky.
GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images/File
Climate change has not been kind to the world'sforests. Invasive species such as the bark beetle, which thrive in warmer temperatures, have attacked trees across the North American west, from Mexico to the Yukon. University of Colorado researchers have found that some populations of mountain pine beetles now produce two generations per year, dramatically boosting the bugs' threat to lodgepole and ponderosa pines. In this 2009 photo, dead spruces of the Yukon's Alsek River valley attest to the devastation wrought by the beetles.
Mountain glaciers —
The snows capping majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak, once inspired Ernest Hemingway. Now they're in danger of melting away altogether. Studies suggest that if the mountain's snowcap continues to evaporate at its current rate, it could be gone in 15 years. Here, a Kilimanjaro glacier is viewed from Uhuru Peak in December 2010.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Laureus/File
Endangered species —
Polar bears may be the poster child for climate change's effect on animals. But scientists say climate change is wreaking havoc on many other species -- including birds and reptiles -- that are sensitive to fluctuations in temperatures. One, this golden toad of Costa Rica and other Central American countries, has already gone extinct.
U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
Animal migration —
It's not your imagination: Some animals -- mostly birds -- are migrating earlier and earlier every year because of warming global temperatures. Scholars from the University of East Anglia found that Icelandic black-tailed godwits have advanced their migration by two weeks over the past two decades. Researchers also have found that many species are migrating to higher elevations as temperatures climb.