What will happen?

The consequences of climate change

 Change will continue through this century and beyond

Change will continue through this century and beyond

Global climate is projected to continue to change over this century and beyond. The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades depends primarily on the amount of heat-trapping gases emitted globally, and how sensitive the Earth’s climate is to those emissions. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms.

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Temperatures will continue to rise

Temperatures will continue to rise

Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, the temperature rise has not been, and will not be, uniform or smooth across the country or over time.

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Frost-free season (and growing season) will lengthen

Frost-free season (and growing season) will lengthen

In a future in which heat-trapping gas emissions continue to grow, increases of a month or more in the lengths of the frost-free and growing seasons are projected across most of the U.S. by the end of the century, with slightly smaller increases in the northern Great Plains. The largest increases in the frost-free season (more than eight weeks) are projected for the western U.S., particularly in high elevation and coastal areas. The increases will be considerably smaller if heat-trapping gas emissions are reduced.

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 Changes in precipitation patterns

Changes in precipitation patterns

Average U.S. precipitation has increased since 1900, but some areas have had increases greater than the national average, and some areas have had decreases. More winter and spring precipitation is projected for the northern United States, and less for the Southwest, over this century.

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  More droughts and heat waves

More droughts and heat waves

Droughts in the Southwest and heat waves (periods of abnormally hot weather lasting days to weeks) everywhere are projected to become more intense, and cold waves less intense everywhere.

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Hurricanes will become stronger and more intense

Hurricanes will become stronger and more intense

The intensity, frequency and duration of North Atlantic hurricanes, as well as the frequency of the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes, have all increased since the early 1980s. The relative contributions of human and natural causes to these increases are still uncertain. Hurricane-associated storm intensity and rainfall rates are projected to increase as the climate continues to warm.

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 Sea level will rise 1-4 feet by 2100

Sea level will rise 1-4 feet by 2100

Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. This is the result of added water from melting land ice and the expansion of seawater as it warms. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms.

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 Arctic likely to become ice-free

Arctic likely to become ice-free

The Arctic Ocean is expected to become essentially ice free in summer before mid-century.Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring: loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves.The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions and an increase in the number, duration and intensity of tropical storms.

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Over the last century significant changes in Guyana’s climate were observed. Guyana’s Initial National Communication (INC) in Response to its Commitments to the UNFCCC (2002), provides an analysis of these changes which are described below. The Second National Communication is currently being developed.

  • Records suggest an increase by 1.0°C in the mean annual temperature in Georgetown within the last century (1909-1998).
  • Prior to 1960, annual rainfall amounts were generally above or about the long term average. However, from 1960 and onwards, there has been a tendency for below average
    rainfall.
  • Tide gauge data in Guyana for the period 1951 to 1979 indicated a mean relative sea level rise of 10.2 mm per year. This is more than five times the global average over a similar
    period.

Guyana is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change for many reasons.

Approximately 90% of the country’s population resides on the Coastal Plain which lies approximately 0.5 to 1 metre below mean sea level (see map showing areas below sea level)

The coast is also relatively flat, which favours rapid accumulation of rainfall runoff, and which makes natural drainage into the ocean very difficult. This situation presents severe challenges to the drainage and irrigation system. Over the years, high levels of flooding were observed in the country especially along the coast and in some inland areas. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of flooding events.

Approximately 75% of the country’s economic activities are located on the coastal area, where the major economic activities, such as agriculture, fisheries and industries are found. These sectors are extremely sensitive to extreme weather events and sea-level rise and are therefore highly vulnerable to changes in climate.

The country has already suffered greatly over the last decade from weather related disasters.

In December 2004 and January 2005, an unusual weather system produced heavy rains which led to major flooding resulting in severe physical damage and economic loss to the country, leading to the worst flooding event ever recorded in Guyana’s history (ECLAC/UNDP, 2005).

The 2005 flood was concentrated in the most heavily populated regions of the country, resulting in some 274,774 persons or 37% of the national population being severely affected by the flood waters. The flooding event claimed the lives of 34 persons. The magnitude of the damage caused by the floods was estimated to be equivalent to G$92.2 billion, or 59% of current GDP for the year 2004. Studies indicate that the rains were not associated with the usual weather systems affecting Guyana.

It is clear that climate change will pose a major challenge to developing countries like Guyana.