SF Environmental Trust


Using appropriate technology for sustainable development

and for the relief of poverty in developing countries


SF Environmental Trust, 9, The Pastures, York, YO24 2JE, UK

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Human Activity -> Increased Greenhouse gases -> Global Warming -> Climate Change


Climate change due to human activity is the greatest threat to our survival. The evidence for this is overwhelming. It is not the purpose of this small leaflet to set out to prove the link between human activity, carbon emissions, global warming and climate change. What we do point out is the possible effects of climate change and what we can do to minimise our impact on the environment.


Effects of Global Warming


It is hard to accurately predict the exact effects of global warming. However it is possible to highlight trends.



1 degree of warming


Temperatures have risen by 0.74 degrees C in the last 100 years.


Low-lying atoll countries such as the Maldives will be preparing for extinction as sea levels rise, and mainland coasts – in particular the eastern US and Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and Pacific islands and the Bay of Bengal – will be hit by stronger and stronger hurricanes as the water warms. The western United States once again could suffer perennial droughts, far worse than the 1930s. Deserts will reappear particularly in Nebraska, but also in eastern Montana, Wyoming and Arizona, northern Texas and Oklahoma. As dust and sandstorms turn day into night across thousands of miles of former prairie, farmsteads, roads and even entire towns will be engulfed by sand.


With current levels of carbon emissions, a 1 degree rise in the Earth’s temperature cannot be avoided.


1 to 2 degrees of warming


Temperature rises of between 1 and 2 degrees C is expected by 2050. The hot European summer of 2003 will become the norm. The heat wave in 2003 was the hottest since 1540 and resulted in the death of an estimated 30,000 people. Farmers lost £8 billion worth of crops, and Portugal alone suffered £8 billion of forest-fire damage. The flows of the River Po in Italy, Rhine in Germany and Loire in France all shrank to historic lows and there was not enough water for irrigation and hydroelectricity. 



In the two-degree world, nobody will think of taking Mediterranean holidays. The movement of people from northern Europe to the Mediterranean is likely to reverse, switching eventually into a mass scramble as Saharan heat waves sweep across the Med. People everywhere will think twice about moving to the coast. When temperatures were last between 1 and 2C higher than they are now, 125,000 years ago, sea levels were five or six metres higher too. By the time global temperatures reach two degrees of warming in 2050, more than a third of all living species could face extinction. 


There is a 93% chance of avoiding 2 degrees of warming, but only if emissions of greenhouse gases are reduced by 60% over the next 10 years. 


2 to 3 degrees of warming


This level of warming will be apocalyptic to the Earth and all the species living on it. Sea levels could rise by 25 metres and food and water shortages will turn much of the world’s population into refugees.


Warmer seas absorb less carbon dioxide, leaving more to accumulate in the atmosphere and intensify global warming. Huge amounts of carbon are stored in the soil, the half-rotted remains of dead vegetation. As soil warms, bacteria accelerate the breakdown of this stored carbon, releasing it into the atmosphere. 


Chance of avoiding three degrees of global warming is poor if the rise reaches two degrees and triggers carbon emissions from soil, plants and seas.