How a drastic change in our environment could affect life on Earth.
Certainly, any notable change in the climate can be considered ‘climate change’ but what specifically are people addressing when they mention the phrase?
According to the World Wildlife Fund,
“Sea levels are rising and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.”WWF
When people discuss climate change, they are discussing the significant variations in our climate like the ones mentioned above, and The World Wildlife Fund could not have summarized the dangerous outcomes of climate change any better than they did in their call to attention.
In 2019, there is no room for speculation when it comes to the threatening reality of climate change. Just take the frequency in heat waves for example. Or the acidification of the ocean. Or the rise in land and sea temperature. Or the increasingly severe cyclones. Or the record-setting droughts. Or the shocking rainfalls afterward. You get the idea. The combination of these weather patterns has been characterized almost unanimously by scientists as tell-tale signs of an immense global climate transformation.
Before we look at the conditions of climate change as we know it, it is crucial to identify tangible evidence that proves the existence and acceleration of the effects of the change. Below are just a handful of statistical pieces of evidence from NASA and SPREP (cited after the diagram).
Between 1901 and 2012, the surface temperature around the world has increased by 0.89 degrees Celsius.
Over 25% of human-induced carbon emissions have been absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
The increase in ocean acidity has been reported to disrupt cloud patterns, wind patterns, snowfall and rainfall, and ocean currents
According to the IPCC, global temperatures will increase by anywhere from 0.8 to 4.8 degrees Celsius.
The five warmest years in modern human history has taken place since 2010.
According to a NASA experiment, Greenland has lost around 268 billion tons of ice annually between the years 1993 and 2016, with Antarctica losing an annual 127 billion tons
The average sea level around the globe has risen by 8 inches within the last 100 years.NASA:
We’ve all read about the daily changes across our globe before, but how exactly is this happening? And more importantly, why? Before we lay out the conditions of climate change, we must first classify them.
I. The Greenhouse Gas Effect
The earth balances the warming effects of the sun by reflecting energy into space. When that energy leaves, some of it is kept behind via gaseous forces in the atmosphere. This process leaves the earth warmer than it otherwise would be. The diagram below visually summarizes the greenhouse effect.
For years, scientists have observed the greenhouse effect as a standard and vital occurrence on Earth. The dilemma, however, is not with the process itself, but rather with the magnified effects provoked by human activities, primarily with the release of substantial volumes of carbon dioxide into the air. Other known greenhouse gasses include methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, and hydro-fluorocarbons.
II. Fossil Fuels
No single human activity has more of a drastic effect on the environment than the burning of fossil fuels. The use of coal, oil, and natural gases as a form of energy on Earth has proved to be damaging.
The World Wildlife Fund states that,
“Globally, power generation is responsible for about 23 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year… with an excess of 700 tons every second.”WWF
Coal has the same role in the exacerbation of the effects of climate change within the fossil fuel category as does carbon dioxide within the greenhouse gas group.
The WWF goes on to state,
“Coal is especially damaging to our atmosphere, releasing 70% more carbon dioxide than natural gas for every unit of energy produced.”WWF
The third component of the climate change trifecta constitutes the destruction of trees and forests around the world. As many of us understand, forests play a significant role in the environment. As carbon dioxide absorbers and oxygen lenders, trees help to mitigate the release of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while providing sufficient oxygen to the air concurrently. Unfortunately, humans have neglected the notion of sustaining a mutually-beneficial relationship with trees through the abundance of deforestation projects occurring worldwide.
Not only are forests being destroyed at an alarming rate, but their elimination plays a role in the profusion of greenhouse gas emissions, thereby reducing any potential to absorb any air pollution.
“Scientists estimate up to 13 percent of global carbon emissions come from deforestation – greater than emissions from every car, truck and plane on the planet combined.”WWF
Now comes the most relevant inquiry of all. How do these problems affect animals and humans on Earth in the long run? Well, let’s break it down.
I. Changes in animal habitat
Animals in the wild are most directly affected by climate change through habitat change. Due to global warming, ecosystems have been drastically altered through differences in vegetation, among other factors. Habitats have also been physically infringed upon from human construction of buildings, homes, roads, and pipes, leaving animals either confined or in danger. To us, it may appear convenient, but to wildlife, it can be a matter of life or death.
An alternative to traditional human construction methods could be to incorporate physical structures through which animals may cross or stay connected to other ecosystems or regions that which they depend. One such structure exists in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.
II. Disruption in natural biological systems
As a direct consequence of the impacts of climate change, certain wildlife has been forcibly adapting their life cycles. For example, birds have resorted to adjusting their seasonal migration cycles, and hibernating species have been sacrificing their sleep.
Unfortunately, animals that are changing the way they live are being pushed to do so in a way that divides ecosystems, generating an unpleasant environment that’s gradually losing its harmony.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Thankfully, many communities, organizations, and governments have taken steps to ease the effects of climate change. Here is a list to join the movement:
- Support the renewable energy cause
- Take public transit
- Use energy-efficient appliances and unplug electronic appliances when unused
- Limit the amount of meat in your meals
- Conserve energy around your home
- Invest in companies that promote renewable energy
- Write to your congressmen or congresswomen and force change in the government
- Share this article to raise awareness!
Please take the time to make a donation to any credible organization dedicated to combating the effects of climate change and take a stand on this pressing issue. Each pledge counts towards a safer, greener, future!
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