Earthducation Team

Climate Hotspots

Mother and child, Ouagadougo, Burkina Faso, Africa

It is, of course, poor people – and especially those in marginalised social groups like women, children, the elderly and disabled – who will suffer most from [climate] changes. This is because the impact of humanitarian disasters is as much a result of people's vulnerability as their exposure to hazards.
CARE International (2008), Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change: Mapping Emerging Trends and Risk Hotspots


What Is a Climate Hotspot?

A climate hotspot is an area that is facing particularly high impact from global warming and climate change and is most vulnerable to its deleterious effects. With regard specifically to environmental factors and global warming, a hotspot can be assessed using the indicators below (from www.climatehotmap.org/). It's important to keep in mind that the impacts from climate change reach well beyond the natural world, affecting social, political, and economic arenas as well.


Fingerprints

Indicators of a widespread and long-term trend toward warmer global temperatures, including:

Arctic Landscape, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada
  • Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather, which can lead to increases in heat-related illness and death, particularly in urban areas and among the elderly, young, ill, or poor.
  • Ocean warming, sea-level rise, and coastal flooding. "A continuing rise in average global sea level would inundate parts of many heavily populated river deltas and the cities on them, making them uninhabitable, and would destroy many beaches around the world," according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 2,000 scientists which advises the United Nations (Tacio, 2009).
  • Glaciers melting. As glaciers continue to shrink, summer water flows will drop sharply, disrupting an important source of water for irrigation and power in many areas that rely on mountain watersheds.
  • Arctic and Antarctic warming. Melting permafrost is forcing the reconstruction of roads, airports, and buildings and is increasing erosion and the frequency of landslides. Reduced sea ice and ice shelves, changes in snowfall, and pest infestations affect native plants and animals that provide food and resources to many people.

Harbingers

Events that foreshadow the types of impacts likely to become more frequent and widespread with continued warming:

Baboon at the Nazinga Animal Preserve, Burkina Faso, Africa
  • Spreading disease. Warmer temperatures allow mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever to extend their ranges and increase both their biting rate and their ability to infect humans.
  • Earlier spring arrival. An earlier spring may disrupt animal migrations, alter competitive balances among species, and cause other unforeseen problems.
  • Plant and animal range shifts and population changes, in some cases leading to extinction where warming occurs faster than they can respond or if human development presents barriers to their migration.
  • Coral reef bleaching, which results from the loss of microscopic algae that both color and nourish living corals. Other factors that contribute to coral reef bleaching include nutrient and sediment runoff, pollution, coastal development, dynamiting of reefs, and natural storm damage.
  • Downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding
  • Droughts and fires. Along with the human toll, sustained drought makes wildfires more likely, and crops and trees more vulnerable to pest infestations and disease.

Sources

CARE International (2008). Humanitarian implications of climate change: Mapping emerging trends and risk hotspots. http://www.care.org/newsroom/articles/2008/08/climatechange_report.pdf

Global Warming: Early Warning Signs. http://www.climatehotmap.org/

Tacio, Henrylito D. (2009). Phillippines: A hotspot for climate change. Energy Information Network. http://www.energy-elink.com/mainarticle.php?mainarticle_id=64



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