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In honour of next month’s Earth Day we take a look at the world’s most threatened places.
Whilst climate change can affect all of us, there are some areas that are more at risk than others. These places tend to have one or more of the following characteristics:
One of the most biodiverse places in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is one of climate change’s most high profile victims. Whilst unsustainable tourism has caused reef damage, climate change is the greatest threat to the 2100 mile ecosystem. How does climate change damage the reef? A number of reasons. Oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic which leads to coral bleaching, whilst changing currents and extreme weather mean the reef is more exposed to damaging events. Some of the damage that has been done to the Great Barrier Reef may be irreversible, and the harm that has been done is extensive, with 93% of the reef experiencing some level of bleaching.
Tiny and paradisaical, The Solomon Islands are part of a slew of pacific idylls that are experiencing the blunt force of climate change. The islands are low lying, meaning that very small rises in water levels can have noticable effects. Eroding soils are causing crop failures, with food security proving to be a pressing issue.
Antarctica has seen air temperature rises of 3 degrees, which is a lot if you consider that global temperature rise needs to be limited to 2 degrees in order to avoid catastrophe. The effects of climate change are perhaps clearest in the arctic, where melting sea ice can be easily measured and the area in general is more sensitive to small temperature changes – meaning the area acts almost as a barometer for global warming.
Could ski holidays in the Alps become a thing of the past? Whilst mountain climates are usually stable, the climate in the Alps has changed dramatically over the last century, with temperatures rising two degrees. There is less snow, glacier melt has been observed, and rocks are beginning to crumble where water melts and then refreezes repeatedly.
Known as The Floating City, Venice is a UNESCO world heritage site that has always been susceptible to floods. Rising sea levels will increase the frequency and severity of these floods, with some speculating that the city could be submerged completely within 100 years if nothing is done to halt global warming. In a worst case scenario, the Mediterranean sea is forecast to rise 140cm before 2100.
Like the Solomon Islands, the low-lying islands of the Maldives are likely to bear the brunt of climate change before the rest of the world. The Maldives is the lowest lying country in the world, meaning any change in sea levels will have noticeable effects. The country also rests atop coral reefs, which will face the same threat of bleaching and species degradation as the Great Barrier Reef.
Currently, wine lovers are some of the few winners of global warming, as hotter summers have produced some strong vintages. However, the trend is unlikely to last. Striking fear into the heart of vino drinkers worldwide, climate change could have disastrous consequences for a number of wine regions, including many in Europe. Long hot summers mean that grapes are more likely to die off before they can be harvested, with wine production having to move to new regions such as Canada.
Glacier National Park currently has 25 glaciers, although in three decades there may be none left. Late summer droughts, due to early snow melts, mean that farmers who depend on melt water for irrigation are struggling to produce the crop yields that they once did. Ski areas are dwindling, as are wildlife levels. Whilst Glacier National Park is one of the most dramatic examples, other mountainous national parks in the US are seeing similar weather patterns.
Sudan is a unique example on this list as it is a place that demonstrates the human conflict that can arise from climate change. Droughts have lead to arid soils and water scarcity which have contributed to widespread food shortages and meant that development efforts have had limited impact. 70% of people in Sudan are dependent on agriculture for their living, whilst 80% depend on rainfall for their water. Whilst there are many reasons for the ongoing conflict in Sudan, climate change is thought to be a contributory or triggering influence.
Bangladesh is a densely populated, low lying area which is composed mainly of floodplains. Its physical characteristics mean that it is especially sensitive to the impact of climate change. Bangladesh will be susceptible to floods and extreme weather events like cyclones and drought. As much of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods, the economic effects could be severe. The lack of robust infrastructure mean that any natural disasters could prove hard to recover from.
Find out how your business can help to fight climate change here.
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