No matter what you are passionate about, something you care about is being affected by climate change. The world is facing the biggest environmental challenge ever seen. Over the past one and half century, the balance of planet earth has changed because of the human activities.
For instance, the burning of fossil fuels such as gas, coal, and oil has increased the number of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere. The increased need for timber has forced people to cut down vast swathes of vast forests. Trees and other forms of vegetation naturally absorb the carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere.
Effects of climate change on forests
Forests are an integral part of the environment as they soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) and help regulate the global climate. CO2 is among the top greenhouse gases responsible for the heightened levels of global warming. Forests are also home to hundreds of thousands of animal and plant species.
The impact of climate change varies in different types of forests. The tree lines are gradually retreating northwards as the global temperatures rise, and that means the sub-arctic boreal forests are likely to be impacted badly. Even in tropical forests like Amazon where there is a significant level of biodiversity, climate change can result in an increased level of extinction.
Due to the increased level of human activity and the growing world population, there has been an increased rate of forest destruction over the last century. If you want to know how true this is, fly over a tropical country. About three decades ago, a beautiful wide belt of rainforest circled the globe covering South East Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Today, this belt is being replaced by vast plantations of rubber, palm oil trees, and more. The forests are being cleared to cater for the expanding cities, cattle grazing, soya farming, and other human activities.
In addition to lowering the amount of carbon dioxide neutralized by forests, the dying trees add to the number of atmospheric greenhouse gases. This strengthens the course for a runaway level of global warming.
Climate change and water
Climate change is closely associated with global warming. According to scientists, warmer air can hold a larger amount of water content, making rainfall patterns more extreme. Rivers, lakes, and other sources of fresh water are essential people, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, freshwater environments around the earth are under excessive pressure from dredging, extraction, drainage, silting, pollution, damming, and invasive species.
The extremes of flooding and droughts are likely to become more common. This will cause more conflict and displacement.
Scientists believe that oceans are important ‘carbon sinks.’ These enormous water bodies absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and prevent it from entering the upper atmosphere. The increased levels of CO2 concentrations and heightened temperatures are making oceans more acidic. This acidity is associated with many negative impacts.
For instance, the sensitive coral and algae are starved of oxygen. This is the primary cause of the dramatic bleaching and eventual death of coral in oceans. Indeed, scientists estimate that if the global warming and climate change remain on the current upward path, only 5% of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will remain by 2050. This is the biggest coral reef globally, and approximately half a billion people depend on fish from coral reef as their primary source of protein.
Climate change and wildlife
One of the scary effects of climate change is the risk of species extinction. According to the IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a 1.5 Degree Celsius rise in global temperatures might put 20% to 30% of species at the risk of extinction. IPCC also warns that if the earth by more than 3 Degrees Celsius, many ecosystems will struggle.
Most of the world’s threatened plant and animal species live in regions that are severely impacted by climate change. This change is happening too fast for these species to adapt. Here are instances of how the impact of climate change is already making the scientists’ conservation work challenging.
Tigers: The population of tigers has been declining to about 3200 due to habitat loss and poaching. Further, the risk of fires and increasing sea levels in the fragmented habitats for tiger are likely to cause a decrease in the number of tigers.
Snow leopards: The increased warming in the Himalayas is approximated to be at least three times the world average. The Himalayas is the prime habitat for snow leopards and continued warming is likely to cause a shrink in their population as the tree line shifts up the mountains.
Asian rhinos: These famed one-horned rhinos live grasslands in North India and Nepal. They depend on the yearly monsoon to bring timely and sufficient rain to rejuvenate the vegetation they feed on. However, the changing climate is likely to disrupt the seasonal patterns and probably bring extremes of floods and droughts.
Scientists already know that the world climate has been changing gradually. Global warming seems to increase the risk of further climate change. Is there anything that we can do to reduce the risk of climate change? Share your thoughts.