Climate change is expected to cause more frequent and severe hazards and we have listed the most prominent ones below. A more focused analysis, based in part on the latest findings from the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, is summarised in the report “Climate science – a perspective for business leaders“ (download here). This report was produced in partnership with Statkraft, Shell, TCS and Xyntéo to provide business leaders a concise, straightforward overview of the very latest findings.
Rising sea level is one of the greatest threats to low-lying islands and coasts. This century it could go up by more than a metre. If ice sheets collapse, the sea could rise by several metres over a few centuries.
Hurricanes and typhoons are expected to become more intense, with higher wind speeds and precipitation rates. There is already evidence for more intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic.
Warming will boost the potential for extreme rainfall, simply because warmer air can hold more moisture. Downpours won’t increase everywhere, but a majority of the planet is expected to face more and heavier floods.
Extreme waves seem to be growing in size, and are expected to loom higher still as the climate changes. The largest waves threaten ships, offshore platforms and wind turbines.
It is no surprise that in a warmer world, we will almost certainly see more heatwaves. Extreme heat can kill directly, destroy crops, damage roads and other infrastructure, and spark wildfires.
Ice & Snow
Arctic sea ice is shrinking fast, while glaciers retreat and permafrost thaws. The global thaw presents a range of risks to nature and human society, and a few opportunities too.
With warmer air and longer droughts to dry out vegetation, conditions are likely to generate more wildfire. Signs are that this is already happening in some regions, with increased risk to homes and businesses.
Causing famine and spreading disease, drought is a grave hazard. Droughts are expected to become longer and more intense in many areas of the world as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change.
Sea water is absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making it more acidic. Many organisms including corals and crustaceans are at risk, along with the fish and other creatures that feed on them.
When heavy rain soaks the ground it adds weight that can trigger a landslide. A warmer, wetter world in the future will probably mean more landslides. Along with other mass motions including mudslides and lahars, landslides are often deadly and destructive.