What are the long-term effects of climate change?

Scientists have predicted that long-term effects of climate change will include a decrease in sea ice and an increase in permafrost thawing, an increase in heat waves and heavy precipitation, and decreased water resources in semi-arid regions.

Below are some of the regional impacts of global change forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

  • North America: Decreasing snowpack in the western mountains; 5-20 percent increase in yields of rain-fed agriculture in some regions; increased frequency, intensity and duration of heat waves in cities that currently experience them.
  • Latin America: Gradual replacement of tropical forest by savannah in eastern Amazonia; risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction in many tropical areas; significant changes in water availability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation.
  • Europe: Increased risk of inland flash floods; more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion from storms and sea level rise; glacial retreat in mountainous areas; reduced snow cover and winter tourism; extensive species losses; reductions of crop productivity in southern Europe.
  • Africa: By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress; yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent in some regions by 2020; agricultural production, including access to food, may be severely compromised.
  • Asia: Freshwater availability projected to decrease in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia by the 2050s; coastal areas will be at risk due to increased flooding; death rate from disease associated with floods and droughts expected to rise in some regions.

Related Content

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Date published: May 29, 2002

Decline of World’s Glaciers Expected to Have Global Impacts Over This Century

The great majority of the world’s glaciers appear to be declining at rates equal to or greater than long-established trends, according to early results from a joint NASA and United States Geological Survey (USGS) project designed to provide a global assessment of glaciers. At the same time, a small minority of glaciers are advancing.

Filter Total Items: 19
video thumbnail: USGS Public Lecture Series: Watching Nature's Clock: A Citizen-Scientist Effort to Track Seasonal Signs of Climate Change
May 5, 2009

USGS Public Lecture Series: Watching Nature's Clock: A Citizen-Scientist Effort to Track Seasonal Signs of Climate Change

A new USGS program, the USA National Phenology Network, is recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers to team up with scientists to help track the effects of climate on seasonal patterns of plant and animal behavior. Come learn how you can contribute to this new national effort, by getting outside, and observing and recording flowering, fruiting and other seasonal events.

Attribution:
sagebrush wildfire
October 18, 2006

Wildfire in sagebrush-steppe region

Prescribed fire is one strategy managers employ for multiple reasons, including descreasing fuels to reduce the probability of severe future wildfires and modifying habitat to benefit native plants and animals. USGS scientists are studying the efficacy of these treatments in forested and sagebrush-steppe ecosystems and their effects on streams, soils, wildlife, and

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A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice
November 30, 2000

A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice

A satellite tagged Pacific walrus on a piece of sea ice

Joshua trees burning in the Bulldog Fire in Mojave Desert tortoise habitat of southwestern Utah
December 31, 1999

Joshua trees burning in the Bulldog Fire in Mojave Desert tortoise

Joshua trees burning in the Bulldog Fire in Mojave Desert tortoise habitat of southwestern Utah. These fires result in population losses of tortoises and modify the habitat in ways that takes decades to centuries to recover.

Repeat oblique photographs of Gulkana glaciers in Alaska.
December 31, 1967

Repeat oblique photographs of Gulkana glaciers in Alaska.

Repeat oblique photographs of Gulkana glaciers in Alaska.  1967, Unknown USGS photographer. 2016, L. Sass, USGS.

Repeat oblique photographs of Wolverine glacier in Alaska.
December 31, 1966

Repeat oblique photographs of Wolverine glacier in Alaska.

Repeat oblique photographs of Wolverine glacier in Alaska.  1966 image by unknown USGS photographer; 2015 image by L. Sass, USGS.

Image: USGS Film: Living with Fire

USGS Film: Living with Fire

A screenshot from the USGS film "Living with Fire".

"Living with Fire" is a 11-minute USGS production exploring ongoing USGS research on wildfire science in southern California -- where the fire ecology is unlike any other region in the United States. 

USGS is investigating ways to balance community fire risk management and native habitat conservation as part

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