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Causes and effects

Science Photographer of the Year Exhibition 2020
0534 A Year In Garbage By Anders Anderssen
CREDIT: Anders Anderssen
A Year in Garbage
Anders Andersson

For a year Anders Andersson weighed and photographed everything he and his two children threw away. The year’s rubbish came to 499.5kg, heavier than a grand piano. He stitched together the photos into this collage showing his family surrounded by their waste. Average UK households recycle 45% of their waste.

1316 Coral Bleaching By Wojciech Nawrocki
CREDIT: Wojciech Nawrocki
Coral Bleaching
Wojciech Nawrocki

Coral is made of thousands of tiny creatures called polyps. Polyps are full of algae which give coral its colour and produce up to 90% of its energy. When stressed, the polyps get rid of the algae leading to bleaching and eventually death. Rising temperatures are one cause of stress.

0735 Brick Kilns By Azim Khan Ronnie
CREDIT: Azim Khan Ronnie
Brick Kilns in Bangladesh
Azim Khan Ronnie

7,000 kilns, one million people, tens of billions of bricks. Bangladesh’s traditional brick-making industry releases huge amounts of pollution into the air. In the capital Dhaka, wastewater from the factories and other industries often turns the River Turag green with harmful algae.

1368 California Wild Fires By Rasmus Degnbol
CREDIT: Rasmus Degnbol
California Wild Fire
Rasmus Degnbol / REDUX Pictures

California’s Woolsey wildfire destroyed the Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park in 2018. The fire killed three people. It destroyed 1,643 structures and burned 390 square kilometres of land. Wildfires are becoming more frequent in many parts of the USA because of climate change.

1374 Lignite Coal Plant By Rasmus Degnbol
CREDIT: Rasmus Degnbol
Lignite Coal Plant
Rasmus Degnbol / REDUX Pictures

Fields of coal waste stretch for 2km from the Bełchatów power station in Poland. It burns lignite, the dirtiest form of coal, producing almost 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The power station is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in Europe.

1480 No Water By Swe Tun
No Water
Swe Tun

A dried lake bed surrounds the Kyut Kalat pagoda near Hpa-An in Myanmar. As a developing nation, Myanmar is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Some areas of the country are experiencing rising temperatures and droughts, while others are increasingly battered by cyclones.

0825 Chapada By Mateus Morbeck
CREDIT: Mateus Morbeck
Chapada 2020
Mateus Morbeck

Forest fires, like this one on a chapada or mountain plateau, blazed through Brazil again last year. The Amazonas and Pantanal regions of Brazil saw over 44,000 fires from January to August 2020. The fires destroyed over 6,000 square kilometres of rainforest.

0579 Kilometres To Where By Ann Petruckevitch
CREDIT: Ann Petruckevitch
Kilometres to Where?
Ann Petruckevitch

The bushfires in the 2019/2020 season in Australia were the worst in living memory. They left a trail of destruction in their path including this damaged sign in New South Wales. 34 people died and fires affected an estimated three billion animals - across an area larger than Florida.

1171 The Planet As Our Grandchildren Will See It By Elena Berseneva
CREDIT: Elena Berseneva
The Planet as our Grandchildren will See It
Elena Berseneva

Industrial and mining waste from a clay quarry has created an almost lifeless soil that looks like images taken on Mars. Known locally as 'Ural Mars', this site is in the Ural Mountains near Bogdanovich in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia.

1370 Kern River Oil Field By Rasmus Degnbol
CREDIT: Rasmus Degnbol
Kern River Oil Field
Rasmus Degnbol / REDUX Pictures

Huge oilfields like this have met the human thirst for oil. The Kern River Oil Field has over 9,000 oil wells that produce around 26 million barrels of oil each year. Burning oil is responsible for about one third of the world’s carbon emissions.

0327 On Thin Ice By Sue Flood FRPS
On Thin Ice
Sue Flood FRPS

Rising temperatures are melting Arctic sea ice, causing it to break up. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt. Without it, this polar bear in the Canadian Arctic will be forced onto land where it can’t hunt its normal prey, seals.

1506 Forest By Dmitriy Kochergin
CREDIT: Dmitriy Kochergin
Dmitry Kochergin

Electricity distribution pylons stand like a forest on a snow-covered hill where trees once grew. This photograph was taken near Magnitogorsk, Russia. Meeting the demands of our power-hungry lives produces carbon dioxide. Trees cut down to make space for power technology can no longer capture carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change.

0463 Iceberg From Ice Shelf By Diana Magor LRPS
CREDIT: Diana Magor LRPS
Iceberg from the Ice Shelf
Diana Magor

This large iceberg broke off an Antarctic ice shelf before drifting through the Southern Ocean. Scientists have seen icebergs breaking from ice shelves faster and more frequently in the last 30 years. Warming air and sea and loss of sea ice is thought to be to blame.

1501 Habitat By Dmitriy Kochergin
CREDIT: Dmitriy Kochergin
Dmitry Kochergin

Exhaust plumes stream from chimneys at a steel plant near Magnitogorsk, Russia. Making a tonne of steel produces approximately 1.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The industry is in the top three producers of carbon dioxide. The 2015 Paris Agreement made steel production a key target for decarbonisation.

1296 Depoldered Noordwaard By Anja De Jong
CREDIT: Anja De Jong
De-poldered Noordwaard
Anja de Jong

Large parts of the fertile Noordwaard lands previously reclaimed from the sea are now being 'de-poldered'. When river levels rise, they are allowed to flood and connect to main rivers. These planned floods act as a buffer during extreme flood events, protecting other land and the integrity of dykes.

1536 Coal Ans Ice By Zan Wimberley
CREDIT: Zan Wimberley
Coal and Ice
Zan Wimberley

A pair of schlieren images provide a visual link between burning coal and melting ice. Schlieren images allow us to visualise differences in air density. Here the hot air rising from burning coal (left) appears to mirror the cold air falling from melting ice (right).

0524 Climate Change In Afghanistan By Solmaz Daryani
CREDIT: Solmaz Daryanı
Climate Change in Afghanistan II
Solmaz Daryani

Three girls are engulfed in a dust storm on their way to school in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Extreme weather events like droughts are becoming longer and more frequent. During one drought in Bamiyan, parents pulled several hundred girls out of one school. Walking further for water left no time for lessons.

0518 Climate Change In Afghanistan By Solmaz Daryani
CREDIT: Solmaz Daryani
Climate Change in Afghanistan I
Solmaz Daryani

Two brothers try to rescue their potato crop from a field in Bamiyan, Afghanistan after a flood. Most Afghans rely on farming to live. Increasing droughts and floods are destroying harvests. More and more people are leaving their homes to look for work as climate change makes farming too hard.

0931 Last Camp Isle Dernières By Daniel Kariko
CREDIT: Daniel Kariko
Last Camp, Isle Dernières, Louisiana
Daniel Kariko

A solitary beach house standing on the remains of Isle Dernières, Louisiana. This island was once a coastal resort. In 1856 a hurricane ripped the island in half, killing 200 people. Storms have eroded most of the island since. What remains importantly protects the Louisiana coast against increasingly intense hurricanes.

1142 One Day On Mars By Yevhen Samuchenko
CREDIT: Yevhen Samuchenko
One Day on Mars
Yevhen Samuchenko

A barrier of sand separates the Kuyalnik estuary in Ukraine from the sea. Now this rare saltwater lake is drying up. Damming has slowed the river to a trickle. Climate change is causing heatwaves and droughts. Salt left behind on the dried lakebed blows onto farmland and stops crops growing.

1139 Dragonfly By Yevhen Samuchenko
CREDIT: Yevhen Samuchenko
Yevhen Samuchenko

Aerial view of water flowing through a break in a causeway in the Kuyalnik estuary in Ukraine. Algae that can cope with salt give the water its pink colour. The estuary is drying up and becoming saltier. Animals that lived here before can’t survive anymore.

1742 A Piece Of Glacier By John Hooper
CREDIT: John Hooper
A Piece of Glacier
John Hooper

Ice from the Haupapa / Tasman Glacier floating in Lake Tasman in New Zealand. This lake formed in the 1970s as the glacier started to melt rapidly. The glacier is retreating at an increasing rate, as much as 800m per year.

1231 Desertification By Siamak Sabet
CREDIT: Siamak Sabet
Siamak Sabet

Dried bed of Namak Lake, a salt lake in Iran. The lake measures 1,800 square kilometres but only 1 square kilometre is covered with water. Many lakes in Iran are drying out and becoming desert through droughts and human action. Namak Lake is increasingly becoming a hotspot for dust storms.

1257 Dead River By Abdul Momin
CREDIT: Abdul Momin
Dead River
Abdul Momin

A dramatic change in the course of the Brahmaputra river caused serious drought in Gaibandha, Bangladesh. People need to cross miles of sandbar to feed their cattle. No vegetation grows near the villages without the river’s water.

1268 The Net Strangling The Ocean By Rafael Fernandez Caballero
CREDIT: Rafael Fernandez Caballero
The Net Strangling the Ocean
Rafael Fernandez

A sperm whale tangled in a discarded fishing net. Fishing equipment left out at sea is known as ghost gear. It makes up 10%, or around 640,000 tonnes, of all marine litter. Ghost nets entangle a wide range of marine wildlife from whales and sharks to turtles, fish and seabirds.