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The effects of climate change


We’re facing the biggest environmental challenge our generation has ever seen. No matter what we’re passionate about, something we care about will be affected by climate change.

Over the past 150 years, we’ve changed the balance of our planet by living beyond our means. In fact, we’re living as if we had 1.5 planets! We’ve burnt huge amounts of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, gas), bred vast amounts of methane- producing livestock and cut down vast amounts of forests, which would naturally absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Climate change is affecting our brilliant planet in lots of ways. 

Species extinction

Global warming is likely to be the greatest cause of species extinctions this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says a 1.5°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk. If the planet warms by more than 3°C, most ecosystems will struggle.

A core part of WWF’s work is helping people, wildlife and their habitats adapt to the effects of climate change. It’s not just about coping with the immediate impacts, it’s about anticipating and planning for future change.

Climate change and forests

Most people know how vital forests are – they soak up carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, and help regulate the world’s climate. They’re also home to countless plant and animal species. We’re working with communities, local governments and businesses to ensure the world’s forests are protected.

Find out more about the effect of climate change and global warming on forests

Climate change and water

Climate change is having serious and unpredictable impacts on the world’s water systems through more flooding and droughts.

It’s impacting on rivers and lakes - which supply drinking water for people and animals - and are a vital resource for farming and industry. And it threatens food chains in our oceans and seas, which sustain a large proportion of life on Earth. 

Find out more about the impacts of climate change and global warming on water

Climate change and polar regions

Recent data has shown that Arctic summer sea ice is melting faster than predicted.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that: “The impacts of climate change in the polar regions over the next 100 years will exceed impacts forecast for other regions, and will have globally significant consequences.” 

Find out more about the effects of climate change and global warming on the polar regions

Climate change and wildlife

For endangered species such as orang-utans in Borneo and Indonesia – which are already at risk because of deforestation, forest conversion and illegal hunting – one of the first effects of climate change is likely to be food shortages caused by unusual rainfall patterns. They’re just one of the many species that will be affected. 

Find out more about the effects of climate change and global warming on wildlife

How you can help tackle climate change