This topic has become central to the study of Geography over the last two decades. It will be an important part of most undergraduate programmes, as well as featuring on A-Level syllabuses. Climate change and its impacts can be studied by both Physical Geographers – e.g. atmospheric scientists, glaciologists - and Human Geographers – e.g. those studying policy-making and the response of human society.
This topic contains several resources, particularly from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This was set up in 1988 to help inform governments around the world about the impacts of climate change, and some of its documents are included in the resources section. You will need to read these resources as you work through the task.
Climate change is a controversial issue and therefore much of the information included in these resources is open to interpretation. For example, people that are sceptical about the existence of climate change will refute the statistics offered by the IPCC.
Firstly, you need to learn a little bit more about how climate change can be defined. For some, it is the same as ‘global warming’, but this is a common mistake to make. It is true that climate change will raise average global temperatures, probably by at least 2°C, but there are lots of other effects; for example, sea level rise caused by melting ice caps and thermal expansion of water, and also the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events like hurricanes and droughts. Here’s a better definition of climate change:
“Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades of longer” (United States Environmental Protection Agency https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information)
You may have seen the film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which is a documentary about some of the likely impacts of climate change. A taster for this film can be found here:
If you watch this film, think closely about the arguments being used. Do you think that Al Gore talks about the certainty of evidence for climate change enough? What do you think can be done to convince government to take action on climate change? The resources will help you think about these questions more.