How will climate change affect people?
The effect of climate change on people will also be dramatic and wide-reaching.
Ecosystems and biodiversity underpin biological productivity and socio-economic development, through the provision of many goods and services to people and industry. These ecosystem services include food, water, timber, fuel and fibre; supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis and nutrient cycling; and regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, waste and water quality, helping people to adapt to climate change. Humans are fundamentally dependent on the flow of these ecosystem services.
Climate change threatens these basic elements of life. For example it is predicted that melting glaciers will initially increase flood risk and then strongly reduce water supplies; declining crop yields, especially in Africa (where over 70% of workers rely on small-scale farming that is dependent on direct rainfall) could result in an additional 80-120 million people at risk of hunger; rising sea levels will result in tens to hundreds of millions more people affected by flooding each year; changing climatic conditions will result in geographic shifts in human diseases; and ocean acidification, a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels, will have major effects on marine ecosystems, with possible adverse consequences for fish stocks.
Biodiversity conservation has the potential to contribute significantly to mitigating climate change, and to help human societies adapt to its impacts. Effective management and restoration of natural systems will help provide resilience and secure livelihoods, improving the capacity of the poorest in particular to deal with the impacts of climate change.
Developing countries need extra resources to allow them to safeguard and manage their assets sustainably. New policies are needed to integrate options for meeting biodiversity, climate and sustainable development objectives.
These direct and indirect impacts of climate change are of central concern to BirdLife's objectives and targets, in terms both of biodiversity and of human development.
Even if the most effective measures were taken now without delay, a certain degree of rapid and significant climate change is already unavoidable. In order for people and nature to come well through this unprecendented crisis it is essential to increase the ability of ecosystems to adapt, and to accommodate the need of species and habitats to move into areas with more suitable climatic conditions.
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