Decenber 2013/January 2014 Teacher's Guide for Global Climate Change: a reality Check Table of Contents

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More on climate change effects
There are many, many ways in which climate change will impact the Earth. The article describes some of these effects in the opening paragraphs, including temperature and sea level increases, more frequent severe storms, hurricanes in new parts of the world, more frequent heat waves and animals migrating to new habitats. And there’s more. According to National Geographic, for example:
Some impacts from increasing temperatures are already happening.

  • Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets covering West Antarctica and Greenland, and Arctic sea ice.

  • Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years.

  • Sea level rise became faster over the last century.

  • Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas.

  • Precipitation (rain and snowfall) has increased across the globe, on average.

  • Spruce bark beetles have boomed in Alaska thanks to 20 years of warm summers. The insects have chewed up 4 million acres of spruce trees.

Other effects could happen later this century, if warming continues.

  • Sea levels are expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).

  • Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger.

  • Species that depend on one another may become out of sync. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active.

  • Floods and droughts will become more common. Rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.

  • Less fresh water will be available. If the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru continues to melt at its current rate, it will be gone by 2100, leaving thousands of people who rely on it for drinking water and electricity without a source of either.

  • Some diseases will spread, such as malaria carried by mosquitoes.

  • Ecosystems will change—some species will move farther north or become more successful; others won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier.  Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay.  He fears that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well.

The EPA lists multiple categories of changes that are occurring or are predicted to occur. They include changes in agriculture. For example, some crops may benefit from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but the frequency of droughts will clearly have negative impacts on crop yields. Growing seasons may change, and these kinds of changes will change the world’s food supply. Forest growth may also be affected. Increased CO2 levels would benefit forest, but without adequate rainfall (in the western parts of the U.S., for example), the benefits will be negated. Droughts will also change the food supply for livestock, and may also increase the prevalence of livestock disease.
Ecosystems will also be affected. Changes in temperature may force some species to move to more northerly latitudes or higher altitudes for cooler temperatures. Sea level rise may force saline water into formerly fresh water regions. Warmer springs may change the nesting periods for birds. Food webs will be altered as a result of these changes.
The physical infrastructure may be affected as well. For example, increased temperatures will have negative effects on roadways and bridges, causing them to erode more quickly. In some parts of the country, however, roadways may be positively affected. Consider regions that typically get large amounts of snow each winter. If climate change decreases snowfall, communities will use less de-icers on roads thus decreasing the rates of erosion.
The examples above are just a few of the possible effects of climate change. A more complete description from the EPA appears here:

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