Evidence from the field is paramount when it comes to understanding the effect climate change has on the biosphere.
Evidence from the field is paramount when it comes to understanding the effect climate change has on the biosphere. While the causes and consequences of that change can be hard to grasp, hard facts from the field can help us to understand where and what is affected, and how.
To promote the availability of climate data and encourage its analysis, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) a US-based environmental advocacy group, developed the Climate Hot Map, a web-atlas showing climate ‘hot spots’.
Each hot spot describes a location where higher than average regional temperatures have a negative impact on human activities and the environment. (Persistently higher regional temperatures are an indicator of climate change).
On the Climate Hot Map website, users can select any hot spot to get key facts on how climate change is affecting these places. They can also read about possible mitigation and adaptation measures.
Visit the Climate Hot Map at www.climatehotmap.org.
The main page opens to show a map of the world with the climate hot spots colour-coded to indicate five categories of environmental features that are affected by a warmer climate: people, freshwater, oceans, ecosystems and temperature.
Under each category, listed below the map, users can check a series of boxes to select which aspects they want the map to display. Checking the ‘food’ box in the people category, for example, will show places on the map where food supply will be affected by a changing climate.
You can click on the hot spot placemark on the map to get more details, including an image, a brief description of the location, and details about the three most severe impacts affecting that area. For example, the map displays several locations when the ‘food’ box is checked, including one in the Western Highveld in South Africa. The text tells us that ‘Unless we act now to curb heat-trapping emissions, corn production in the Western Highveld is expected to decline, destabilizing the food supply of millions of people’.
The text box provides only a brief summary of the information available, but also includes links with details about how to take action, learn about potential regional solutions to the global warming problem, or access the whole factsheet of the hot spot complete with key facts, details and endnotes.
The hot spot information can also be downloaded and explored in Google Earth. Click on the Google link at bottom left corner of the map to download the KML file. Locate the downloaded file on your computer and double click to o view the information in Google Earth. From the program you can drag the KML file from the ‘Temporary Places’ folder in the frame on the left, and drop it in the ‘Places’ folder to store the file permanently on your computer.
The information on each hot spot is also available from the Climate Hot Map main page, by clicking on the four tabs above the interactive map. The first tab from the left is a list of all the hot spots organised into regional groups. Click on a region listed on the left to show the associated hot spots. Click on one to open its complete factsheet.
The second tab is the map itself where you can choose the hot spots by geographical location or type of impacts.
The third tab ‘See Impacts’ gives an overview of the five main impact categories: people, freshwater, oceans, ecosystems and temperatures. Clicking any of the impacts refreshes the page to show the associated information and a link to references. The ‘food’ section, for example, reveals information on how climate change can reduce agricultural productivity, lead to increased irrigation and threats from pests, and warns of severe shifts in seasonal rainfall patterns.
The site provides further information on the causes of climate change, and has a glossary of climate change terms, both of which can be accessed by clicking the relevant links at the top of any page on the site.
The ‘Find Solutions’ tab gives more details on the mitigation and adaptation measures needed to tackle climate change.
The Solutions page is organised into world regions, and gives information on each region, such as what is being done to reduce the effects of climate change. Each regional page provides links to websites of institutions and programmes dedicated to the issue.
The Climate Hot Map is one of several tools related to climate change awareness. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research programme has its own map of climate hot spots – along with a tools, a data portal and a ‘related reading’ page.
For more details on climate compatible development tools, the Climate Planning website provides an interactive user guide on how to develop sound climate strategies.