How Will Climate Change Affect Our Future – The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to rise unless the billions of tons of our annual emissions fall sharply. Increased concentrations are expected:
Many greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for long periods of time. As a result, even if emissions stop rising, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will continue to rise and remain high for hundreds of years. Moreover, if we stabilize concentrations and atmospheric composition remains stable today (which would require sharp reductions in current greenhouse gas emissions), surface air temperatures will continue to rise. This is because the oceans, which store heat, take decades to fully respond to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases. The ocean’s response to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases and higher temperatures will continue to influence climate over the next several decades to hundreds of years.
- 1 How Will Climate Change Affect Our Future
- 2 The Health Effects Of Global Warming: Developing Countries Are The Most Vulnerable
- 3 Heat Stress In U.s. May Double By The End Of The Century
How Will Climate Change Affect Our Future
To learn more about greenhouse gases, visit the Greenhouse Gas Emissions page and the Greenhouse Effects section on the Causes of Climate Change page.
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Because it is difficult to predict emissions and other human factors influencing climate far into the future, scientists run different scenarios using different assumptions about future economic, social, technological and environmental conditions.
This figure shows the expected greenhouse gas concentrations for four different emission pathways. The leading path assumes that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase throughout the current century. The lower scenario assumes emissions peak between 2010 and 2020 and decline thereafter. Source: graph based on data from the Representative Concentration Pathways Database (version 2.0.5) http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web-apps/tnt/RcpDb. Click the image to view a larger version.
We have already seen global warming over the past few decades. Temperatures are expected to change further in the future. Climate models show the following major temperature-related changes.
Projected changes in global average temperature along four emission pathways (rows) for three different time periods (columns). Temperature changes refer to average values for 1986-2005. These pathways are taken from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: RCP2.6 is a very low emission pathway, RCP4.5 is a medium emission pathway, RCP6.0 is a medium to high emission pathway, and RCP8.5 is a high emission pathway. emission level. (emissions are expected to continue to rise throughout the century). Source: IPCC, 2013Exit Click image to view larger version.
Map Shows How Climate Change Will Affect Health Across Us
Observed and projected changes in global average temperature along four emission pathways. The vertical bars on the right show likely temperature ranges by the end of the century, and the lines show projections averaged across a range of climate models. Changes refer to the 1986–2005 average. Source: IPCC, 2013Exit, FAQ 12.1, Figure 1. Click on the image to view a larger version.
Projected mid-century (left) and end-of-century (right) temperature changes in the United States under higher (top) and lower (bottom) emissions scenarios. The brackets on the thermometers represent the likely range of model predictions, although lower or higher results are possible. Source: USGCRP (2009).
Precipitation patterns and storms, including rain and snowfall, are likely to change. However, some of these changes are less specific than those associated with temperature. Forecasts indicate that future precipitation and storm surge will vary by season and region. Some regions may receive less rainfall, some may receive more, and some may see little or no change. Heavy rainfall precipitation is likely to increase in most regions as storm tracks are expected to shift poleward. Climate models show the following changes in rainfall and storms.
Projected changes in global average annual precipitation for a low-emissions scenario (left) and a high-emissions scenario (right). By the end of the century, rainfall is projected to increase in blue and green zones and decrease in yellow and brown zones. Source: IPCC, 2013Exit Click image to view larger version.
The Health Effects Of Global Warming: Developing Countries Are The Most Vulnerable
The maps show projected changes in future precipitation at the end of this century compared to 1970-1999 under a higher emissions scenario. For example, climate models agree that during the winter and spring, the northern parts of the United States tend to be wetter, while the southern parts tend to be drier. There is less certainty about exactly where the transition between wetter and drier areas will occur. Confidence in expected changes is highest in areas marked with diagonal lines. Changes in white areas were not expected to be greater than expected as a result of natural variability. Origin: United States National Climate Assessment 2014 Click image to view larger version.
Arctic sea ice is receding. Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased since about 1970. Permafrost temperatures in Alaska and much of the Arctic have increased over the past century. To learn more about recent changes in snow and ice, visit the Snow and Ice page in the Indicators section.
Over the next century, sea ice is expected to continue to shrink, glaciers will continue to shrink, snow cover will continue to decline, and permafrost will continue to melt. Potential changes to ice, snow and permafrost are described below. These maps show projected sea ice loss in the Arctic and Antarctica. Maps (a) show average ice concentration (relative area covered by sea ice) for 1986-2005. Maps b) and c) show climate model simulations of sea ice thickness in February and September towards the end of the 21st century under low (b) and high (c) input scenarios. Less ice expected in the Arctic in February (more blue); September is expected to be mostly ice-free (mostly blue). Projected changes to Antarctic sea ice are less noticeable. Source: IPCC, 2013. Click on image to view larger version.
Meltwater flowing from the Greenland ice sheet. Source: NASA Warming contributes to sea level rise by: expanding ocean waters; melting of mountain glaciers and ice caps; and causes parts of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to melt or flow into the ocean.
Study Gives Clearer Picture Of How Land Use Changes Affect U.s. Climate
Since 1870, global sea levels have risen approximately 7.5 inches. Estimates of future sea level rise vary across regions, but global sea levels are expected to rise higher in the next century than they have in the last 50 years.
Research suggests that global sea levels will rise an additional 1 to 4 feet by 2100, with an uncertainty range of 0.66 to 6.6 feet.
The contributions of thermal expansion, ice caps, and small glaciers to sea level rise are relatively well understood, but the effects of climate change on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are poorly understood and are an active area of research. Changes in ice sheets are currently projected to cause sea level rise of 1.2 to 8 inches by the end of this century.
Past and projected sea level rise from 1800 to 2100. The orange line on the right shows the current projected range of sea level rise of 1 to 4 feet by 2100; the wider range (0.66 to 6.6 feet) reflects uncertainty about how glaciers and ice will respond to climate change. Source: NCA, 2014. Click on image to view larger version. Regional and local factors will influence future relative sea level rise on specific coastlines around the world. For example, the relative rise of sea level depends on changes in the height of land that occur as a result of subsidence (subsidence) or uplift (ascent). Assuming these historical geologic forces continue, a 2-foot rise in global sea level by 2100 would result in the following relative sea level rise:
Climate Change And Social Vulnerability In The United States: A Focus On Six Impacts
Relative sea level rise also depends on local changes in currents, winds, salinity and water temperature, as well as proximity to thinning ice sheets.
Ocean acidification negatively impacts many marine species, including plankton, shellfish, shellfish and corals. As ocean acidification increases, the availability of calcium carbonate will decrease. Calcium carbonate is the main building material for the shells and skeletons of many marine organisms. If atmospheric CO
Concentrations continue to rise at current rates, a combination of climate warming and ocean acidification could slow coral growth by nearly 50% by 2050.
The oceans are becoming more acidic as emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere dissolve into the oceans. This change is measured on the pH scale: lower values mean more acidic conditions. Ocean pH levels have decreased by about 0.1 pH unit since pre-industrial times, corresponding to an increase in acidity of about 30%. As shown in the graph and map above, ocean pH levels are expected to decline further by the end of the century as CO2 concentrations are expected to increase in the foreseeable future.Source: IPCC, 2013, Chapter 6. Click on image to view larger version.
Inequitable Patterns Of Us Flood Risk In The Anthropocene
 USGCRP (2014) Melillo, Jerry M., Teresa (T.K.) Richmond, and Gary W. Yohe, editors, 2014: Impacts of Climate Change in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. US. Global Change Research Program.
 IPCC (2013). Climate Change 2013: Physical Science Basis Issue. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stoker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-C. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, W. Bex, and P.M. Midgley (ed.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA.
 NRC (2011). Climate stabilization targets: emissions, concentrations and impacts over decades to millennium emissions. National Research Council. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, USA.
 USGCRP (2009). Impact of global climate change on
Heat Stress In U.s. May Double By The End Of The Century
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