Impacts of a Changing Climate
There is no debate about whether our climate is changing. What we need to do is look at how climate change is impacting our world, understand what further changes to expect, and find ways to adapt. How do we survive, thrive?
We can start with the most obvious, the melting of the glaciers. No big deal, right? So what if all the ice from the glaciers melts away, that has no impact on your daily life. Or does it?
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Projections suggest climate change impacts within the next 100 years, if not sooner, the world’s glaciers will have disappeared, as will the Polar ice cap, and the huge Antarctic ice shelf, Greenland may be green again, and snow will have become a rare phenomenon at what are now the world’s most popular ski resorts.
Well, let’s take a look at that single problem, and see how it grows. The melted ice needs to go somewhere, it is not just evaporating. Which brings us to our second Climate Change Impact:
Climate change impacts rising sea levels. Average sea level around the world rose about 8 inches (20 cm) in the past 100 years; climate scientists expect it to rise more and more rapidly in the next 100 years as part of climate change impact. So we are going to lose some landmass to the rising oceans, forcing coastal residents to move inland
You may not have to worry about that because you already live inland. How will your community handle the influx of climate migrants?
But then where do we migrate to? The melting of the glaciers and rising sea levels are now having an effect on the jet stream, which leads us to the third impact:
While the specific conditions that produce rainfall will not change, climate change impacts the amount of water in the atmosphere and will increase producing violent downpours instead of steady showers when it does rain.But flooding and extreme storms are only half of the problem.
But flooding and extreme storms are only half of the problem.
Despite downpours in some places, droughts and prolonged heat waves will become common.
Rising temperatures are hardly surprising, although they do not mean that some parts of the world will not “enjoy” record cold temperatures and terrible winter storms. (Heating disturbs the entire global weather system and can shift cold upper air currents as well as hot dry ones. Single snowballs and snowstorms do not make climate change refutations.
Increasingly, however, hot, dry places will get hotter and drier, and places that were once temperate and had regular rainfall will become much hotter and much drier.
So now we have a migration of people that are forced to move away from coastlines because the land is being swallowed up by rising ocean levels, and a migration of people from areas that have become too hot, or too cold, to inhabit.
Migration is not the only problem we will be dealing with.
One of the most striking impacts of rising temperatures is felt in global agriculture, although these impacts are felt very differently in the largely temperate developed world and in the more tropical developing world.
Different crops grow best at quite specific temperatures and when those temperatures change, their productivity changes significantly.
Mother nature is already reacting.
As the world warms, entire ecosystems will move.
Already rising temperatures at the equator have pushed such staple crops as rice north into once cooler areas, many fish species have migrated long distances to stay in waters that are the proper temperature for them.
In once colder waters, this may increase fishermen’s catches; in warmer waters, it may eliminate fishing; in many places, such as on the East Coast of the US, it will require fishermen to go further to reach fishing grounds.As if that were not bad enough, while we are being adversely affected by these changes, others are already adapting, and causing new threats to our populations
Rising temperatures favor agricultural pests, diseases and disease vectors.
Pest populations are on the rise and illnesses once found only in limited, tropical areas are now becoming endemic in much wider zones.
The melting of the glaciers and subsequent actions are just a fraction of the changes we will continue to experience.
The only debate is whether we as an industrialized world have brought it on, and if so, how do we repair the damage we have done? What caused the glaciers to begin melting in the first place?
(Source of Climate Change Impacts from Dr. D. Michael Shafer’s “Climate Change Primer” Download your free copy.)
Scientists attribute current atmospheric warming to human activities that have increased the amount of carbon containing gases in the upper atmosphere and to increased amounts of tiny particles in the lower atmosphere.
Specifically, gases released primarily by the burning of fossil fuels and the tiny particles produced by incomplete burning trap the sun’s energy in the atmosphere. Scientists call these gases “greenhouse gases” (GHGs) because they act like the wrong way reflective glass in our global greenhouse.
Scientists call the tiny particles ‘black carbon’ (you call it soot or smoke) and attribute their warming effect to the fact that the resulting layer of black particles in the lower atmosphere absorbs heat like a black blanket.
Scientists date the beginning of the current warming trend to the end of the 18th or beginning of the 19th century when coal first came into common use.
This warming trend has accelerated as we have increased our use of fossil fuels to include gasoline, diesel, kerosene and natural gas, as well as the petrochemicals (plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers) we now make from oil.
Scientists attribute the current warming trend to the use of fossil fuels because using them releases into the atmosphere stores of carbon that were sequestered (buried) millions of years ago.
The addition of this “old” carbon to the world’s current stock of carbon, scientists have concluded, is what is heating our earth which causes global warming.
In much the same way as moving away from oil and coal to sustainable energy sources can help alleviate global warming, biochar technology applied to both land management and sustainable agricultural practices can make a huge difference.
What Can We Do?
The first step is to recognize that we do indeed have a problem. Next step is to find solutions.
Advances are being made everyday on sustainable alternative sources of fuel, weaning us away from dependence and use of oil and coal. That is a big step in the right direction.
But oil and coal are only part of the problem contributing to global warming.
Land management and agricultural practices also play a big part.
- Deforestation is stripping away a natural defense against global warming
Trees play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere—and increased speed and severity of global warming.
- Dead trees emit carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming
Trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. They release the oxygen (O2) back into the atmosphere for us to breathe and use the carbon (C) to build cell walls. As long as the tree is alive, it soaks up C; together trees in a forest become a “carbon sink” holding carbon that cannot contribute to global warming.
The problem with this is obvious – trees die and when they do, they rerelease the C into the atmosphere as they rot.
- Open field burning of crop waste
Around the world field burning creates 330,000 gigatons of black carbon annually – which is the 2nd biggest contributor to global warming – and huge quantities of methane and NOx, greenhouse gases 25 and 298 times respectively more warming than CO2.