Cracked ground near Boulder City, Nevada Photo: John Locher/AP

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Climate change will have profound consequences for people

Climate change threatens the essentials of life for people around the world: food, water, health, and security. The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed; the poorest countries and people will suffer soonest and to the greatest extent.

  • Case Study 1

    Extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity

    Climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, fires, storms, and flood events, resulting in widespread property damage and loss of life. By 2100, it is estimated that an additional 52 million people in 84 developing countries will be affected by coastal storm surges. Damaging typhoons are increasing in frequency and severity, which will mean considerable loss of life and economic damage. The risk of extreme summer heat events in Europe has already quadrupled, with serious implications; a heatwave in 2003, for example, resulted in 15,000 deaths.

    Extreme weather events will increase in frequency and intensity

    Photo: Haithanh

  • Case Study 2

    Exposure to infectious disease is likely to increase

    In recent decades, higher temperatures have resulted in range expansions for key disease carriers, such as mosquitoes. The incidence of malaria, dengue, and haemorrhagic fever is correlated with temperature, precipitation, and humidity. Overall, improvements in public health are expected to lead to a decline in infectious disease, but climate change will act as an impediment; by 2050, it is estimated that 200 million more people will be exposed to malaria as a result of climate change.

  • Case Study 3

    Impacts on food production may be substantial

    The effects of climate change on food production are already evident in several regions of the world. In recent years, there have been several periods of rapid food and cereal price increases following climate extremes in key producing regions, which indicates a sensitivity of current markets to climate extremes. By 2050, it is predicted that yields of most important crops will decline in developing countries due to climate change, exposing an additional 25 million children to malnutrition.

    Impacts on food production may be substantial

    Photo: James Watkins

  • Case Study 4

    Climate change is expected to drive mass migration of people

    The impacts of climate change are expected to drive a significant increase in the scale of human migration and displacement. It is estimated that between 25 million and 1 billion people will move by the end of the century in response to extreme weather events, drought, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts. In 2008 alone, extreme weather events displaced 20 million people, compared to 4.5 million internally displaced by conflict.