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Geographical’s “Climatewatch” section raises awareness about climate change effects that mainstream media have overlooked.

I only recently became aware of Geographical, the magazine of the UK’s Royal Geographical Society, thanks to Lola Akinmade’s interview with contributing photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich.

Somewhat akin to National Geographic (a comparison which I’m sure it has tired of), Geographical features gorgeous photos and in-depth features about the world’s geography and culture.

Geographical also runs a regular section called “Climatewatch,” a round-up that summarizes recent research about climate change. Beyond documenting calving icebergs, warming permafrost temperatures, and rising sea levels, though, Geographical also runs short explanations about the lesser known effects of climate change.

Here are three of the lesser known effects of climate change, reported in recent issues of Geographical:

Photo: Julie Schwietert

1. At least one-fifth of the world’s lizard population could disappear.

More than 12% of the lizard population in Mexico has gone extinct since 1975, according to the research Geographical cites; projections for the future look much worse. At least 39% of the world’s lizards–especially those who bear live young– could disappear by 2080 due to increasing temperatures.

2. Declines in agricultural productivity could result in mass Mexican migration to the US.

Climate change won’t affect non-human animal populations alone. Human communities will be affected profoundly, too.

In its October 2010 issue, Geographical’s Kara Moses, citing research done at Princeton University, stated that “A warming climate could cause mass migration of Mexicans into the USA.” As crop yields drop due to climate change, farmers and other workers in the agricultural industry will be forced to migrate. Moses added, “Under current predictions for the range of climatic variations, this could mean between 1.4 million and 6.7 million Mexicans–up to 10 percent of the current adult population–migrating… in the next 70 years.”

Migration isn’t the only consequence affecting humans; Geographical also reported that civil war is likely to occur in Africa as the Earth heats up and water supplies diminish. The research cited indicated that the likelihood of civil war increases at least 55% if current climate change projections are realized.

3. Primate communities could collapse as their “time budgets” are re-alloted.

If you’ve ever watched primates at the zoo, they seem to spend their time engaged in a couple key activities: eating, hanging out (literally), and grooming one another. Researchers from Bournemouth and Oxford predict that if temperatures continue rising, apes will be forced to spend more time on “basic survival,” and will have less time for socializing. Socializing, the researchers explain, is actually a critical function of daily living for apes; it helps keep groups together. As socialization breaks down, so too will the overall primate population.

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Community Connection:

Read more about climate change by browsing the articles on Matador’s Global Environmental Issues Focus Page.

Climate Change


About The Author

Julie Schwietert

Julie Schwietert Collazo is a writer, editor, researcher, and translator currently in New York, formerly of Mexico City and San Juan.

  • iz mendoza

    2. Declines in agricultural productivity could result in mass Mexican migration to the US.

    I mean, seriously??
    Here are my opinions why not:
    - Mexican agriculture is receiving few subsidies from the Government and it is almost dead since the past decade.
    - The few farmers left are joining the drug cartels where they can earn more money, or they are migrating indeed to USA for “better” living conditions but 80% of them are already there. (You can see villages in Mexico where only women live)

    In other terms, it’s not the climate change the reason why people migrate to USA.

    • admin


      The article, if you click through to read it, doesn’t say that climate change is currently the reason why Mexicans are migrating. What it says is that migration is likely to increase as temperatures increase. I encourage you to read it–I’m not saying I agree with the article, but I’m saying it’s an interesting theory. Whether it will hold true, who knows?

  • Abbie

    Ugh. So discouraging.

  • HKNunzio

    As much as I like lizards and primates, I’m also glad you included the second one. There’s actually a term for people displaced by sudden changes in their local environment: environmental refugees. A lot of people tend to link the term “refugees” to migrants who are forced away from their homeland due to warfare, but environmental factors can also have a significant impact on migration patterns.

    • admin

      Thanks, Hope. I’d heard of environmental refugees, but only in the context of people who live on islands that are likely to be inundated or people who live in areas sensitive to desertification. The idea that there were other potential effects was new to me–gave me lots to think about. Thanks for that link, too!

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