Climate change is almost overwhelmingly concluded to be real and anthropogenic (human-caused) by scientists and organizations worldwide. Despite seemingly haphazard weather patterns, the global climate has been warming for the past several decades, and at a drastically unprecedented rate. Here, the Axe staff takes a look at some of the impacts climate change will have on earth systems.
Currently, the United States is experiencing one of the weirdest winters it has experienced in a long time. While the Northeast seems to have an endless supply of snow, the Southwest seems to have a devastating lack of rain. So far the city of Boston has already had 104 inches of snow this year, just three inches less than the record, which was set in the winter of 1995-96. Many people are probably wondering why this has anything to do with global warming. Colder weather is good, right? Wrong.
More very large events becoming more common is what you would expect with climate change, particularly in the Northeast – climate scientist Don Wuebbles.
According to the National Climate Change Assessment report, heavy storms have increased by more than 70 percent in the last six decades. Right now “extreme precipitation,” which is the top one percent of heavy rain and snowstorms, seems to be gaining more power at a faster rate than the other one percent in America.
On top of this, the Southwest is experiencing a polar opposite climate to the Northeast with droughts.
“El Nino and La Nina can be a major driver of extreme weather,” Professor Mat Collins, Joint Met Office Chair in Climate Change at Exeter University in UK, said in an interview with BBC News. “We are going to see these extreme weather [events] become more frequent.”
While the weather has been very beautiful this winter, one has to remember that this is not the norm and is dangerous for our environment.
– Aidan Johnson
Scientists estimate that there are between 5 and 100 million different kinds of species on this planet. So far, we’ve identified 1.7 million — less than half — of them. Our world is made up of a variety of ecosystems, each populated with species best suited for their environment. Assemblages of species perform distinct, critical roles in maintaining ecosystem health. These ecosystems, and the species within them, make up the biological diversity (biodiversity) of our planet and ensure the continuation of life on Earth.
Rainforests are the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. According to the Nature Conservancy, Rainforests are home to around 50 percent of Earth’s species despite the fact that they cover only two percent of its surface. The abundance of plant and animal species living in rainforests provide us with foods, medicines, and clean air.
Unfortunately, rainforests are not invincible. Climate change and deforestation are serious threats to the rainforest ecosystem. Climate models predict that climate change will cause severe Rainforest droughts, impacting and potentially eliminating 75 to 80 percent of the species living there. Without the awesome biodiversity residing in our dwindling rainforests, we would lose vital carbon reservoirs, high-yield crops (like chocolate and coffee!), and medicines (70 percent of our cancer medicines require ingredients from tropical rainforests). Rainforests also act as a buffer against floods, droughts, and erosion, while regulating global temperatures and weather patterns. As Rhett Butler, journalist, scientist, and founder of environmental news website Mongabay, wrote, “by destroying the tropical forests, we risk our own quality of life, gamble with the stability of climate and local weather, threaten the existence of other species, and undermine the valuable services provided by biological diversity.”
– Raina Kamrat
Desertification is one of the greatest environmental changes of our time. It’s a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry region becomes increasingly arid and loses its vegetation and wildlife, turning productive lands into deserts. The causes of desertification are factors that change over time and location, but climatic changes and human activities can be defined as major factors. Some of the human activities that cause desertification are overgrazing, deforestation, removal of the natural vegetation cover and cultivation of marginal lands. All of these causes are triggered by population growth and the impact of the market economy.
Desertification is a global issue that affects more than 1.5 billion people. It also has serious worldwide effects on biodiversity, eco-safety, poverty eradication, socio-economic stability, and sustainable development. Desertification threatens 52 percent of land used for agriculture; each minute, 23 hectares of farmland are lost to the expansion of deserts.
– Margherita Cappellini
When people think of the effects of pollution, they often overlook one of the crucial environmental issues of our time: ocean acidification. Only about three-quarters of carbon dioxide emissions actually reach the atmosphere; the rest gets dissolved in the ocean. While the ocean is enormous, so much carbon dioxide is being dissolved into it – about 22 million tons per day according to the Smithsonian Museum – that the process cannot be reversed naturally.
Carbon dioxide mixed with water forms carbonic acid which, over the last two hundred years, has caused the ocean’s pH to become 25 percent more acidic, according to National Geographic. Organisms are extremely sensitive to external and internal changes in pH. For example, minute changes in the pH of human blood can lead to seizures and comas.
Carbonic acid has been shown to dissolve the shells of sea creatures, inhibit shell growth, and is highly likely to cause reproductive disorders in fish. As a result, coral reefs, the backbone of the most diverse ecosystems in the ocean, will grow slower and weaker, mussels and barnacles will be unable to anchor themselves to rocks, and young shellfish will be more likely to die. Huge numbers of oysters have already died on the Pacific coastline.
On top of that, since the ocean is absorbing so much carbon dioxide, its capacity as a carbon storehouse could be diminished. Essentially, even greater amounts of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere. When we last saw significant hikes in ocean acidity 55 million years ago, massive extinctions occurred. However, we are pouring carbon dioxide into the oceans at unprecedented rates, meaning although no one can precisely predict long-term effects, they are sure to be disastrous. If we want to fix this problem, we need to reduce our carbon footprint. Not only will it help solve ocean acidification, it will also alleviate global warming and pollution.
– Melissa Wang
Deforestation is one of the most prevalent and harmful results of human intervention in the environment. It is proving to be a major problem in many climates around the globe. Deforestation involves cutting down, burning, and damaging of forests, often by human means. The phenomena has taken place on a large scale basis for centuries. A primary cause of tropical deforestation is slash and burn agriculture, a process of clearing forests for agricultural purposes. In this method, poor farmers chop down a few acres’ of trees, then burn the tree trunks. Rainforests are often replaced with large cattle pastures. Commercial logging is also a common form of deforestation, in which trees are cut down and processed to be sold as pulp or timber.
The adverse effects of deforestation can be seen in many different environmental complications, but rainforests are hit the hardest. They are the most rapidly disappearing type of woodland forest in the world. This is especially dangerous since rainforests provide a huge portion of the Earth’s oxygen supply, and oxygen concentration in the atmosphere has been decreasing for decades. At the same time, carbon dioxide emissions are rising to alarming levels. If the rainforests continue to be depleted, there will be less trees to convert this excess carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis. According to the United States
Environmental Protection Agency, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is expected to double by the year 2100.
Damaging the Earth’s forests is not just detrimental for the animals living in those ecosystems, it is devastating to all living things on the planet, including humans. It is imperative that forests, especially rainforests, be preserved by all means possible in order to ensure the health of the planet and ourselves.
– Miyako Iwata
For years the American public has heard that the polar ice caps are melting. Despite the actual damages to the environment, the repeated blaring of this message by news outlets has caused a desensitization to the environmental situation of Antarctica. If the melting of ice caps was considered a problem 10 years ago and nothing earth-shattering has happened, then nothing earth-shattering will happen in the next 10 years, right? Wrong.
“It has passed the point of no return, ” Dr. Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California, said, during a NASA news conference, in reference to the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. This is the tipping point to an era of instability. The New York Times reports that, “experts have feared [this] for decades.” These findings indicate that the oceans will rise 10 or more feet, possibly more considering that they might destabilize other glaciers, as well. According to Dr. Ian Joughin of the University of Washington, even if humans were to clean up the planet and change their ways, there is no way to re-stabilize the glaciers. The result? Our oceans will rise, wiping out cities, causing other unseen events, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
Although scientists have told us there is nothing we can do to stop this particular catastrophe, humans should not give up on trying to save the planet just yet. Glaciologist Jason Box stated in an interview that the more we can cut down on greenhouse gases, the slower the Earth’s temperature will increase, which will cause the melting of the glaciers to slow. We may not be able to reverse the melting, but we control how fast we approach the inevitable. As Dr. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, said, “There’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?”
– Alexandra Narin