Life is Changing Global warming is the most urgent environmental problem the world is facing. Few, if any, trends are more important to our future than climate change caused by human activities. This change is not beneficial. This warming trend occurring because of the buildup of greenhouse gases – primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide- which is a direct result of humans and the Industrial Revolution (EPA, 2000). These gasses are emitted profusely into the atmosphere by factories, cars, and many other devices.
As the sun’s rays hit the Earth’s surface and bounce off, the gasses trap the heat. This creates the rise in temperature. These warming temperatures have many negative effects on Earth, which also affect us. I believe there are three main categories in which these raising temperatures have an effect: glacial melting and water levels, plant life, and human and animal health. As the temperatures are rising, glaciers are melting.
One of its’ main consequences is the rise in sea level. As the sea level rises, a few things are happening and in the next twenty-five to fifty years, the sea level is expected to rise a full foot. For starters, the coastlines of countries all over the world are slowly being covered and eroded away (Newmann, 2000). Coastal cities are being flooded and people are being forced to move inland. When flooding occurs, there is the chance of fresh water contamination.
Changes in the sea level also cause changes in the precipitation patterns. All of these changes have effects on many things humans need and use. Drinking water, navigation, and hydroelectric power are just a few (EPA, 2000). While is seems that flooding might be the only problem, these changes are also responsible for droughts. The explanation for these two tribulations is simple. Increased temperature means increased evaporation.
Heavy evaporation takes the moisture out of the soil creating a drought. However, when the clouds can’t hold anymore moisture and it finally all gets rained out, there is a strong chance of flooding. Changes in the water in our environment can also severely damage critical habitats. Wetlands could be flooded into lakes or completely dried up (Newmann, 2000). Our precious habitats could be destroyed.
Obviously, this also is effecting the plant life in these areas. Plant life is also suffering from the increase in temperature. During drought periods, the plants aren’t getting enough water. During floods, they can be washed away. With the new and varying temperatures, some plant species will not survive. Forests, if they survive, are drastically changing.
The warmer, drier climates can turn the forests into pastures and grasslands. If the weather becomes wetter, the types of trees and plants that currently grow in our forests will change. Some plant species will die out or move and some will flourish. Since the temperature changes alter the types of weather in different places, there is obviously a shift in the areas in which certain plants grow. Agriculturally, this is a problem as well. The production patterns are shifting northward.
As the soil is drying up, more irrigation is needed to keep produce growing (Adams, 1999). Increasing irrigation leads to decreased water supply. This is a big problem even in Ohio. Agriculture is a 4.4 billion-dollar industry and the temperature rise plus the decrease in water supply could decrease the crop yields by thirty-five percent (EPA, 2000). With plant species dying off, shifting environments, and changing, animals eating habits are broken.
Their habitats are different. If they can even survive all of the changes, they are going to have to completely readjust to their new environments. Between dynamic water and plant cycles, animals and humans are also going to have troubles. Human health is also destined for trouble. Just from a mere three to four degree temperature rise during the already hot summer months, the summer death toll will nearly triple.
The added heat is detrimental to people with heart problems as well as increasing the likeliness of heat exhaustion and respiratory problems (EPA, 2000). Also, the increase in humidity will be bothersome to people with respiratory allergies. People with asthma and other lung diseases will be affected because higher temperatures increase the amount of ozone at ground level. Another considerable health concern is the fact that many serious diseases only appear in warmer weather. Disease carrying insects, namely mosquitoes, will be able to travel farther north (Epstein, 1998).
As far as humans will be effected economically, with the absence of certain crops or inability to grow them, everyone will be affected whether it is through rising prices due to scarcity or monetary loss to people involved in the agriculture business (Adams, 1999). Along with humans, animals are also greatly affected by global warming. The rising temperatures will also inflate the temperature of bodies of water. Fish and other aquatic life may not be able survive in the warmer environment. The chemical content of the oceans could be altered by the loss of oxygen in the water, which in turn increases the salinity.
As noted earlier, the loss of wetlands means the loss of food and habitat for many animals. The life cycles and migration patterns in animals, such as birds, will also be altered (EPA, 2000). Global warming has, once again, shown no advantages for this aspect of life either. On the other hand, some also speculate that global warming is not the fault of humans and in fact, it isn’t bad. It is a proven fact that the Earth’s temperatures naturally slowly fluctuate and they will continue to do so without the help of humans.
Dr. Hugh Ellsaesser believes that we are due for around a 1.8 F. increase because of the global cooling during the past four hundred years (Carlise, 1998). He claims that all this will do is generate slightly warmer winter and nighttime temperatures, which will result in less frosts and longer growing seasons. Also, the only time that agriculture was failing was during the cooler temperatures.
This upcoming warming, in fact, could be beneficial to many countries (Carlise, 1998). Global Warming is a problem that we must deal with immediately. It affects almost every aspect of life on this planet: human and animal health, plant life, and glacial melting and water levels. While some argue that the warming trend is completely natural and it is in fact going to be beneficial, there seem to be far more negative sides of the debate. While global warming may not be an immediate “killer,” it definitely needs to be taken care of and it all starts with us.
Bibliography WORKS CITED 1. Adams, Richard M. “Agriculture & Global Climate Change.” February 10, 1999. www.pewclimate.org/projects/env agriculture.cfm 2. Carlise, John. “Global Warming: Enjoy it while you can.” April, 1998. www.nationalcenter.org/NPA194.html 3. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Global Warming.” October 4, 2000. www.epa.gov/globalwarming.htm 4. Epstein, Paul R. “Is global warming harmful to health?” 1998. www.sciam.com/2000/0800issue/0800epstein.html 5. Newmann, James E. “Sea-level Rise & Global Warming.” February 29, 2000. www.pewclimate.org/projects/env sealevel.cfm.