Since almost the beginning of Earth's existence over four-and-a-half billion years ago, geology and life have been taking carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, sequestering the carbon, and releasing the oxygen. Life has sequestered carbon dioxide as nearly pure carbon (coal), and hydrocarbon compound such as natural gas and mineral oil; we know these forms as fossil fuels.
Over the last one-hundred-and-fifty years humanity has been taking the carbon from these fossil fuels and putting back it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The carbon-dioxide increases the strength of the greenhouse effect, which causes global warming, which, in turn, changes the climate of the planet, making it warmer and more volatile.
The destructive consequences of climate change include:
rising sea level
As the atmosphere warms the sea is also warmed. The warmer water expands, causing sea levels to rise. The warm atmosphere also melts land-bound ice in Greenland, Antarctica and in glaciers all over the world, adding to the sea level rise. The rising sea levels increase shoreline erosion, and flood low-lying land that supports specialised natural littoral environments, and which is commonly used for agriculture and human habitation.
reduced biodiversity due to changing natural environments
As the climate changes so the environments that it forms part of changes, too. Some environments get drier, some wetter, some hotter, some effectively move; some, such as alpine and polar climates, disappear altogether. The plants and animals that rely on these changing environments are likely to become extinct.
reduced agricultural production
As the climate changes it no longer suits the plants and animals that we use in agriculture, and our agriculture becomes less productive. In some cases the environments that suit our
agricultural life-forms are displaced. We may be able to relocate our agriculture to their new location; however, this is not certain. Relocation will result in great disruption and
require redevelopment of agriculture infrastructure. Overall, the changes are likely to result in less agricultural productivity.
more violent storms
The energy collected in the atmosphere and the sea increases with the rising global temperature, making the weather more energetic, resulting is stronger more destructive
As the atmosphere warms, the sea is also warmed, which increases evaporation and the amount of water vapour in the air. This water vapour helps to drive storms and increases the amount of
rain they produce.
more severe heatwaves more often
As the global air temperature rises, heatwaves are becoming more severe. As the sea temperature rises the sea's offsetting effect on air temperature is reduced
more severe winters, less often
While winters are generally becoming warmer, climate change is more likely to allow polar air to reach lower latitudes, causing extreme cold snaps in temperate latitudes, especially in the northern hemisphere
The carbon dioxide that humanity is putting into the atmosphere also dissolves into the oceans making them acidic. This acidity affects the ability of many animals, especially animals with exoskeletons such as crustaceans, molluscs, and corals, to form skeletons, shells and other structures. This effect is not climate change, but it is another destructive environmental change that results from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
To reduce human-induced climate change we must reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that we put into the atmosphere. While there are many things that we can do to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses and even though we are doing some of them, our emissions are steadily rising because the global economy is always growing and overwhelming any changes that we make.
more information and ideas
You can hear an excellent discussion about climate change, called The Scientific Argument for Climate Change on Chris Martenson's PeakProsperity website. Chris Martenson is interviewing Mark Cochrane, professor and senior research scientist at the Geospatial Science Centre of Excellence at South Dakota State University.
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