Impacts of global warming and climate change

Ice melting in Antarctica / ©: Greg & Kate Bourne / WWF-Aus
Ice melting in Antarctica
© Greg & Kate Bourne / WWF-Aus
When you change the climate you change everything.

The Earth’s average temperature has warmed by about 0.76°C over the past 100 years, with most of this warming occurring in the past 20 years.

This temperature rise may appear small, but small rises in temperature translate into big changes for the world’s climate.  This is because the amount of extra energy needed to increase the world’s temperature, even by a little, is vast. This extra energy is like force-feeding the global climate system.
How does Climate Change affect me?

Global warming will directly impact human health and livelihoods.

Drought, heatwaves, sea level rises, storms and floods will cause economic damage to infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

Climate change will increase the cost of living and compromise human health. Cities like Athens, Chicago, Adelaide, Milan, New Delhi and Paris have sweltered under heatwaves.
The 2003 summer heatwave in Europe killed 14,800 people in France alone.

For more information, go to impacts of global warming and climate change – people at risk.
Impacts of global warming – the facts
  • Global warming is melting glaciers in every part of the world, putting millions of people at risk from floods, droughts and shortages of drinking water
  • Summer temperatures in European capitals have increased by up to 2°C over the past 30 years, a WWF report showed
  • Rising sea levels threaten entire nations on low-lying islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Read Climate Witness stories about the impact of rising sea levels in the South Pacific and India
  • The report Global Warming contributes to Australia's worst drought released by WWF and leading meteorologists shows that human-induced global warming was a key factor in the severity of the 2002 drought in Australia, generally regarded as the worst ever.
What does a 0.76°C temperature rise mean?
  • More hot days
  • More severe storms, floods, droughts and fire
  • Higher sea levels
This small temperature rise could threaten human health, lives, industries and jobs. Global warming threatens agricultural production, fresh water supplies and the survival of native species and ecosystems.

This small temperature rise also means we can expect:
  • More hurricanes and cyclones in the Caribbean, the United States and Burma
  • More extensive droughts in eastern Africa, Australia, southern Europe and parts of China and India
  • More devastating floods like those in Pakistan (in 2010), Brazil and Australia (in 2011), and other parts of the world
The impacts of a warming world are concerning enough when considered one by one, but the view worsens when you consider them collectively.

Climate change is the world’s greatest threat.

Global warming has emerged as the single greatest threat to Australia’s biodiversity.

Global warming has emerged as the single greatest threat to Australia’s biodiversity. Scientists predict that a 1.5°C global temperature rise may see 25% of the Earth’s animals and plants disappear; a 3°C rise may see 30% disappear.

The Great Barrier Reef will also be significantly affected by climate change, with scientists predicting that a 1.5°C temperature rise will result in 97% of the Great Barrier Reef affected by bleaching. For more information, go to impacts of global warming and climate change – nature at risk.