As the climate continues to change, it is producing some noticeable effects, both for humans and the other species which we share the planet with. Here is a quick breakdown of the various changes we can see, as well as their impact on the Earth and its inhabitants.
Increased temperatures lead to more moisture evaporating from the land and water; this leads to droughts. Droughts dry out the land, in effect ending plant life and laying the foundations for another climate change side effect – wildfires.
Wildfires are catastrophic for the forests they burn through, and oftentimes result in the death of many plants and animals.
Floods and droughts are opposite phenomenon, but they go hand-in-hand. When the earth is dry enough, it becomes unable to absorb sudden downfalls of rain. Droughts and wildfires lead to the increase of floods and landslides.
14 out of the 15 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. Even a miniscule change in average global temperatures result in huge changes in heat, therefore producing more severe and frequent heat waves.
Warmer ocean temperatures are a natural breeding ground for increased hurricane activity. Hurricanes love warm waters and heat makes them stronger. While the annual number of hurricanes remains about the same, their severity increases. This, of course, leads to increased destruction and loss of life with each event.
1. More melting ice expands oceans and worsens the weather
- The Melting Cryosphere
The cryosphere is the frozen water on Earth. Increased temperatures are causing our planet’s snowpack, glaciers, and ice to melt too quickly. This actually serves to expose the darker ocean waters, which causes more sunlight to be absorbed (because dark colors absorb sunlight). This heats up the ocean, and continues the cycle of continued melting and heating.
- More Extreme Weather
Heatwaves are now more common and frequent. As more and more water gets evaporated, this acts as a sort of fuel for storms, and so we see a direct correlation between less water and more severe weather. When sea levels rise, this causes storm surges which cause more damage. In dryer areas is where we see the increase of droughts and wildfires.
- Oceans are Hotter and More Acidic
As discussed, melting ice leads to increased ocean temperatures, which leads to more ice melting, which leads to even more warming of oceans. Oceans absorb 90 percent of the extra heat in the climate. This leads to the expansion of oceans. Meanwhile, about one third of carbon dioxide emissions wind up in the oceans, and this causes the waters to become more acidic. Oceans are now about 40 percent more acidic than they once were.
2. Climate Changes Negatively Impact Human Health
Because climate change is very damaging to agriculture, it is having a direct effect on how much food is available globally. More and more, farmers around the globe are having trouble growing food and keeping up with the changes in weather patterns. There is an increase of weeds, disease, and pests, which all serve to lessen product yield.
Warmer weather increases ozone (“smog) at the ground level, leading to increased air pollution. This air pollution has some very real side effects to human health, including lung problems and asthma attacks. Deaths attributed to heat are also on the rise. The heightened warmth of freshwater forms breeding grounds for disease-causing agents such as bacteria. These agents infect drinking water and lead to illness and death.
3. Cycled of Compromised Plant and Animal Environments
Melting ice is a severe threat to ice-dependent animals such as walruses and polar bears. In 2008, the polar bear was placed on the Endangered Species list, becoming the first animal to be added because of global warming.
Coral and shellfish suffer, as well. Because coral reefs are highly sensitive to small changes in ocean temperatures, the increased ocean heat is having an extremely negative effect on them now. Because algae provide corals their colors and nourishment and the algae are leaving, the corals starve and lose their color (a phenomenon known as ‘bleaching’). Because coral reefs are home to many other fish and plant species, their destruction can result in the entire ecosystem collapsing. In addition, acid erodes calcified shell creatures such as shellfish and coral; more acidic oceans are resulting in decreased growth of these species.
Lastly, forests are now more prone to deadly infestations. Warmer winters and more prolonged summers is allowing for tree-killing insects to thrive and to stay longer. Because droughts weaken trees’ defenses, they have no good way to fight off these deadly insects. This cycle of warmer weather, weakened tress, and increased numbers of tree-killing insects is likely the cause of the massive death of 70,000 square miles of Rocky Mountain conifers.