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Where in the world is the ice?
Why are our glaciers shrinking?
Living with glaciers
What landforms of erosion will disappearing ice reveal?
How will melting glaciers affect people living in the UK?
How will melting glaciers affect people living in other countries?

Glacial environmentsGlacial environments - How will melting glaciers affect people living in other countries?

This lesson explores how melting glaciers will affect other countries.

Key questions

  • Where in the world will the greatest impact of climate change and melting glaciers be felt?
  • What is the global threat of glaciers melting?
  • Who is most at risk from glaciers melting and sea levels rising?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Scale
  • Interdependence
  • Environmental interaction

Where in the world will the greatest impact of climate change and melting glaciers be felt?

Melting glaciers have several different effects. For example, the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas will affect the drinking supplies of the millions of people who rely on meltwater rivers. In addition, when sea levels rise, people living close to sea level will have their homes flooded. This will have a major impact on the hundreds of millions of people living on low-lying land in Bangladesh. Out of the four places suggested: Asia, Africa, the Arctic and the Amazon, the impact of climate change and melting glaciers is likely to be felt most in Asia, because this is the region that has the highest population.

What is the global threat of glaciers melting?

The key milestones for a possible future sea-level rise timeline are:

  • World sea-level is expected to rise 60cm to 70cm by 2100; but this is mostly due to thermal expansion (as the sea gets warmer, it expands)
  • Significant glacier melting in Artic, Antarctic, Himalayan and Alpine regions could produce another metre of sea-level rise by around 2200
  • If greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets could one day melt completely, bringing 7m and 60m rises respectively. However, this might take hundreds of years

Who is most at risk from glaciers melting and sea levels rising?

Poorer places and people are more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise than richer places and people because they lack the capacity to change as well. Sea level rises over the next hundred years or so are more likely to cause mass migrations than mass mortality because the timescale for sea level rise is such a long one that in the main, changes are likely to be gradual. It is unknown where the world's poorest people will migrate to in order to escape rising sea levels and what the consequences of this movement will be.

The IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change) has projected major eustatic changes in sea-level over the next 100 years if CO2 levels continue to climb towards the danger level of 550 parts per million (ppm). It has long been recognised that any sea level rise will have a disproportionately bigger effect on some countries than others. The worst effects will be felt by those that are:

  • Coastal and low-lying (thus at greatest risk of flooding)
  • Poor and highly-populated (thus lacking a capacity to cope)

Bangladesh is certainly worth discussing. It has a GDP per capita of just $1,300 and a very low Human Development Index score (the nation is ranked 140th). Bangladesh is also a terribly vulnerable country, with much of its land close to sea level on the Ganges delta, where the land is naturally sinking and subsiding in any case.

Many other nations are at serious risk of sea-level rise. The poorest of these lack the resources needed to adapt to climate change. In a high-emissions future, some places could be abandoned entirely:

  • The Maldives. Most of the tiny islands that make up the Maldives are less than two metres above sea level. The 300,000 people that live there may soon become climate change refugees. In 2008, the Maldives President asked neighbours India and Sri Lanka if he could buy some of their land
  • The Pacific island state of Tuvalu. Half of Tuvalu's 10,000 residents live within three metres of today's sea-level. Many islanders think they may soon need to migrate elsewhere

Downloads

Dots

Starter

Where in the world will the greatest impact of climate change and melting glaciers be felt?
As a class, have a go at the Four As quiz. It asks you to think about which regions of the world you think will feel the greatest impact of climate change and melting glaciers. You have four options:

  • Antarctica
  • The Amazon
  • Asia
  • Africa

The PowerPoint will also give you the correct answer. Were you right?

Dots

Main

What is the global threat of glaciers melting and who is most at risk?

The risks linked to glacial melting and sea level rise are not evenly spread across the globe. In the last lesson of this unit, you will find out which places and people are most vulnerable. There are two PowerPoint presentations that you need to take a look at to find out.

The global threat PowerPoint gives you an idea of what scientists predict might happen to our glaciers over the next couple of centuries - and of course as a result, what will happen to sea level.

The global pressure points PowerPoint introduces some case studies of places and people that are thought to be most at risk from sea level rise.

If you like, you can also have a go at an activity on the Discovering Antarctica website which looks at the countries most at risk.

Once you have taken a look at both presentations, there are some key questions that you should discuss as a class:

  • Will poorer places and people be more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise than richer place and people? Why?
  • Will sea level rises over the next hundred years or so be more likely to cause mass mortality (large numbers of deaths) or mass migration (forcing people to move away from their homes)? Or both? Why?
  • Where will the world's poorest people migrate to in order to escape rising sea levels?
  • What could the consequences of this movement be?
  • How can we try to prevent all of this from happening, or what preparations can we make to help us deal with problems that arise?

Focusing on the last of these questions, in groups of four come up with a five minute television documentary on the topic of preparing for sea level rise. It can be aimed either at people in the UK, or in one of the countries that is most vulnerable to sea level rise.

Your documentary should include the following five things:

  • Information about why sea level rise is happening
  • Scientists' predictions for how much sea level may rise in the future
  • The possible impacts of sea level rise in the country that you're broadcasting your documentary in
  • The possible global impacts of sea level rise
  • What people can do to (a) reduce sea level rise (for example, reducing their carbon footprint), and (b) prepare for the problems that sea level rise might bring

You will need to look back at the resources from this and previous lessons in this unit to help you plan your documentary.

Then, either write it down, act it out or film it - and share it with the rest of your class.

Dots

Plenary

End of unit quiz

Test your knowledge and understanding of the topics covered in this unit by taking the end of unit quiz.

If you take the quiz in teams as a class, why not name your teams after the glacial landforms you've learnt about?

How well did you do?

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