The earth’s climate has the power to shape the history of the world is a known fact. It can biologically, culturally and geographically alter the basics of the planet. However over the last century it was realized that even human activities can alter the climate to a great extent. During the past 100 years, global average surface temperature increased by about 0.7 degrees Celsius resulting in climate change.
Our planet, Earth, is facing severe climate imbalances due to the extended abuse during the past few centuries. The average temperature of the planet has predicted rise of 2.5 to 11.5°F over the next century due to climate change. These minor temperature changes can prove to be very dangerous in the future. Global warming is an issue haunting several countries of the world. With the constant increase of greenhouse gases the situation is expected to worsen.
Emissions have been increasing so rapidly that the agreed international goal 3.6 degrees, set about three years ago seems too ambitious say several researchers. The nations that agreed change in practices and reduction of emissions are seen to have done little to attain the same.
By the time we see that climate change is really bad, your ability to fix it is extremely limited… The carbon gets up there, but the heating effect is delayed. And then the effect of that heat on the species and ecosystem is delayed. That means that even when you turn virtuous, things are actually going to get worse for quite a while.
~ Bill Gates
EPA defines climate change as,
“Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.”
The steep rise in global temperatures have had some severe climatic effects. There have been massive changes in the rainfall patterns leading to droughts, flash floods, irregularity of rains, excess rainfall etc. One of the newest dangers we face is our oceanic resources. The water levels are rising leading to the submerging of low lying regions. The glaciers are melting due to the increased temperatures leading to the rise in sea levels especially at the poles. This is also threatening a loss of habitat for several creatures that survive in colder regions like polar beers.
Some Dangerous Effects of Climate Change
1. Changes in Rainfall Patterns
We all have seen that floods, droughts, excess rainfall and irregularity of rains became quite frequent in last couple of decades. These are none other than after effects of climate change. While some places receive plenty of rainfall which leads to floods, other places have to face droughts.
2. Increase in Sea Level
Low level areas are more vulnerable as rise in sea level can displace tens of millions of people. Sea level rise as earths up and glaciers are melt during global warming and dump more water into the oceans. In US alone, roughly 100 million people live within 3 feet of mean sea level. People living in small island countries like Maldives are already looking for alternate destinations.
3. Loss of Wildlife Species
Rise in temperature and change in vegetation patterns have forced some bird species to become extinct while others have migrated to some other place. If experts are to be believed, one-fourth of Earth’s species could extinct by 2050. In year 2008, polar bear was added to the list of animals that could become extinct due to rise in sea level.
4. High Temperatures
Due to increase in atmospheric gases by industries and vehicles, the global earth temperature could rise to 3 to 10 degree Fahrenheit by the end of century. The increase in temperature has given rise to increase in deaths that occur due to hot and dry climatic conditions. During last century, earth’s average temperature rose by 1 degree Fahrenheit which in itself is a cause of concern. Research indicates that controlling can reduce temperatures by 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
5. Shrinking of Arctic Ice
Greenhouse gases keep the energy in the atmosphere intact causing the temperature to rise. This is what we commonly refer to as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is essential for the existence of our ecology. However an increase in the greenhouse gases can only lead to harmful effects to the ecology and the environment. Studies conducted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reveal that arctic ice decreased by significant percentage in the last 30-40 years. If appropriate steps are not taken, it might go off sight by mid of this century.
6. Stronger Storms and Hurricanes
As earth becomes more warm, the chances of occurring of hurricanes could rise in the future. Not only they will occur frequently but will be more intense, long lasting, stronger winds that have the capability to destroy coastal ecosystems and communities.
7. Prolonged Heat Waves
The constant release of greenhouse gases from all the anthropogenic activities is the foremost factor affecting climate change. Greenhouse gases are emitted from the combustion of fuels, industries, agricultural activities, etc. These gases heat up the atmosphere and increase the air temperature and make it difficult for the people to survive.
8. Spread of Disease and Economic Losses
It is expected that diseases like malaria and dengue fever will rise and will be more difficult to control as mosquitoes find those conditions favorable to spread. Heat waves in the last decade alone may have caused more than 150,000 deaths, as per the data available with World Health Organization (WHO). The rising heat waves has given rise to heat related illness which turned into death for those who were not provided with appropriate medical attention.
9. Shifting Habitat
Deforestation, wildfires, heat waves have forced plants and animals to shift towards poles and to higher altitudes. This is not a great news for environmentalist as most of them have started dying as they are not able to adapt to the changing climatic conditions which has actually pushed them towards extinction.
Prolonged heat waves caused by climate change have created appropriate hot and dry conditions for wildfires. As a result, deforestation occurs and push wild animals to some more high altitude regions. Animals who could not adapt to new location die and their species become extinct.
As per recent research summer thunderstorms that lift water to the upper atmosphere pose can potentially harm the protective ozone layer over the United States. This is one of the first observations linking climatic imbalances to the ozone cover over a human settlement.
The climate is crucial to our survival. Every society in the world has adapted and lived as per a certain climatic condition and environmental setting, the changes in the climate leads to disruption of normalcy and re-adaptation. A drastic climate change will alter our current setting like agricultural practices, water, weather cycle, power, transportation systems etc.
We can help our ecology survive and stabilize our climate by making conscious and responsible choices. We need to restrict the emissions of greenhouse gases from both domestic as well as commercial purposes. We should also be prepared for the changes that have already occurred and strive to restore the climatic balance back to normal. Our climate is essential for our survival today. Our ecology and our planet are both at stake.
References: edf , nature , NASA