The human consequences of climate change

Andy Hacket Pain

Over the last few years, there has been much recent media interest in the impacts of climatic warming in the Arctic region, with the Guardian recently reporting new research that demonstrates a strong feedback between sea ice loss and increasing regional temperatures, potentially leading to even more rapid loss of Arctic sea ice.

Studies such these provide important evidence on the global impacts of anthropogenic climate warming, and are often used in high profile campaigns by conservation groups to emphasise the importance of rapid national and international action to reduce carbon emissions.

However, I think we can sometimes be guilty of neglecting the local impacts of climate change. James Ford and others, writing in The Geographical Journal provide a case study examining how climate change in the Arctic impacts on indigenous Inuit populations in Canada. They show that in addition to the rate and nature of environmental change, factors such local traditions and community structure interact to produce a complex picture of vulnerability in these communities.

Despite this being a very locally-based study, work such as this highlights that simply producing good monitoring and prediction capacities is not enough when we are dealing with the impacts of climate change – we must go beyond the pure science and appreciate the complex relationships between society and nature if we are to gain a better understanding of the true human consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.

Read the article in The Guardian

Read the article by Ford et al (2007)

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