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The Threat Posed to the Planet by Climate Change

What Does 'Climate Change' Actually Mean?

Climate is determined by many dynamic and complex interactions between atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and land surface, including vegetation. Greenhouses gases in Earth’s atmosphere play a role in this, by trapping energy from the sun, which helps to maintain Earth’s stable temperature (the ‘greenhouse effect’).

Mankind has affected this temperature regulation by releasing increasing quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, mainly through burning carbon stored in fossil fuels. This means more heat is trapped by the greenhouse gases, which gradually causes the planet to warm. The complexities of climate regulation make the effects of CO2 difficult to detect, but current scientific consensus is that anthropogenic activities are definitely causing unprecedented global warming.

Predicted Climate Changes

Temperature is predicted to rise by 2 - 4.5°C (global average) by the end of this century. However the effects on climate are not limited to temperature

  • Average precipitation will increase slightly but may be delivered less evenly (e.g. heavy storms).
  • Sea levels will rise about 0.5m in the coming century.
  • El Niño and La Niña will intensify.
  • The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will increase (e.g. more frequent extreme droughts in Africa and Asia).
  • Local effects may be important –for example, increased meltwater may inhibit or alter the Atlantic gulfstream, leaving the UK with a more Scandinavian climate.

How Does Climate Change Affect Plants?

Find out how climate change is already effecting plants - the keystone of nearly every biological chain.


Gran Canaria Declaration on Climate Change and Plant Conservation

In issuing its ‘Gran Canaria Declaration on Climate Change and Plant Conservation’ the Gran Canaria Group, whose membership includes many botanic gardens around the world, calls on the international community to take urgent action to protect global plant diversity.


Challenges in Botanical Research and Climate Change
The 2nd World Botanic Gardens Scientific Congresswill be held in Delft, the Netherlands, on 29 June - 4 July 2008. The main themes are Conservation and Climate Change, Bionics, New Systematics and Future Issues. Registration for those wishing to contribute a paper is 15 December
The No-nonsense Guide to Climate Change (Dinyar Godrej, 2001)
This easy to read overview of climate change sifts scientific theory from scientific fact and presents the impacts on health, farming and wildlife, along with an analysis of political negotiations on the issue and potential solutions to it.