Climate Change – A Call Unanswered
Climate Change – A Call Unanswered
Climate changes have brought about more harm than good to the prevailing environmental conditions. The major cause of such drastic changes includes the warming of earth’s atmosphere through greenhouse gasses. Industrialization also plays quite a crucial role in the development of such environmental conditions. Different damages in climatic conditions includes, increase in sea surface temperatures and ocean temperatures, threatening conditions of ecosystems’ diversity, and most importantly, development of permanent changes in behaviors of different species (commonly known as phenology). Phenological phenomenon includes alteration in reproducing seasons for different animals and birds together with severe modification in birds’ migration towards different parts of the world. Moreover, the climate changes have also brought about changes in the behavior of butterflies along with different species that includes vegetation. However, the escalating sea temperature another contributing factor for inflicting damage to marine ecosystems and coral reefs. Apart from that, human systems are also quite prone to such massive changes on environmental and climate scales. In this regard, people living in small island states and indigenous communities are on the verge of extreme danger. The danger is both direct and indirect in nature. It encompasses the development of severely tough conditions for living and in severe cases, can lead to the extinction of human race. These specific communities are also quite prone to different weather conditions and lack of healthcare facilities available for them. For combating against such changes, subsequent climate protection policies bear enormous importance at the current stage. Besides the development of policies, different measures including the managerial, behavioral, and geopolitical aspect. Adaptation to these changes is valid for short-term perspective; however, for the longer term, it is better to look for different sustainable alternatives for climate protection.
With the advent of industrialization, Earth has gone through some changes in its environment. The most prominent change includes the climate changes all across the globe. The driving causes behind such deteriorating condition of Earth are not an enigma; rather, it has become an open secret. The contribution of greenhouse gasses has accelerated the decline at much faster pace. The impacts can be visualized through different climate changes parameters and more specifically, from changing ecological diversities of different species. In some specific environments, the diversity is challenged up to the very extinction of species. Understanding the very catalysts for such change and their mitigating steps are the most crucial aspects for preserving and sustaining Earth’s fragile environment.
Climate Changes and Nature’s Response
The Earth’s climate temperature has increased by 0.6oC during the last 100 years comprising of warming periods in 1910-1945 and 1976-present. It is worthwhile to note that the increase in temperature during the last period has been doubled as witnessed during the first cycle thereby contributing towards the greatest temperature during the last 1000 years. Nevertheless, the ecosystems, population, and organisms do not correspond to these global average values; rather, they behave on the local climate environment and rate of change. Scientifically speaking, it is termed as special heterogeneity of the environment. Also, diurnal temperature ranges are also decreasing because of the very reason that the minimum temperature has been increasing at twice the rate of maximum temperatures. Due to that, the freeze-free time periods in different middle and high latitude regions are increasing thereby leading to 10% decrease in the ice extent and snow cover since the 1960s (Walther et al. 389). It can also be reflected from Hoegh-Guldberg et al. (1737) study related to ocean acidification and changes in coral reefs as part of climate alterations. The study has provided insight about atmospheric carbon dioxide role in increasing global temperatures. It has been concluded from the study that the concentrations would exceed more than 500 ppm (parts per million) giving rise of around 2oC from the year 2050 to 2100 which is the highest since the last 420,000 years. The changes are quite evident and surely require in-depth understanding about responding to such massive changes in climate. However, changes on different scales are also quite vital for understanding the mitigating steps at large.
Hydrological cycle corresponds with the change in regional climate temperatures. It is because of the changes in the energy balance within the glaciers together with eh extent and depth of snow cover. It also includes factors of snowmelt runoff, thawing of rivers and lakes, seasonal modifications in freezing and most importantly, escalation of evaporative and precipitation processes. For the 20th century, the very evidence of such changes includes the recession of glaciers in almost every continent. There has also been the strong decline in the extent of snow cover in the northern hemisphere (Serreze et al. 159-207). Since the late 1940s, runoffs and snowmelt have been occurring at increased frequency in central and northern California. The annual durations of the river ice and lake cover within the high and middle latitudes in the northern hemisphere region have reduced drastically to around 2 weeks and are quite variable to predict the very changes (Kratz et al. 2796-2799).
It has also been reported that there has been increasing trend of extreme rainfall within the mid and high latitude regions of the northern hemisphere that includes the UK, the United States and some extratropical regions China.
From the ecological theory, it can be predicted that different community and species correspond to altering climate changes in animals and plants. It includes the very change in ecosystem dynamics and structure together with shifts in distributions and range, altered phenology, genetic evolutionary response and effects of physiology. It also encompasses changes in the disturbance that includes wind and fire damage, can also occur. For the detailed outlook of it can be visualized in upcoming sections of animals and plants response to such changes.
Most of the evidence related to vegetation changes reflect the climate changes and warming of regional temperatures in high latitude and high altitude environments. However, the contributing factors including land-use changes should be minimized. It also includes the regions where the climate changes would be much more detrimental. Increases in the different species richness were discovered at around 21 out of 30 summits of the Alps; however, the remaining summits have reflected a slight decrease and in extreme cases, complete stagnation.
A study by Körner (45-62) has suggested that the tourism, grazing, and nitrogen depositions also contribute towards such abrupt migrations. A similar study by Hasenauer et al. (209-219) has reflected a strong increase in the effective diameter of Norway spruce all around Austria during the temperature increase during 1961-1990. In the North American region, Barber et al. (668–673) have linked the declining growth of white spruce in the Alaskan region with temperature-induced drought stress.
Nevertheless, in the more temperature sensitive ecosystems, it has been documented that the phonological advances in the flowering dates of 10 tree and herbaceous species thereby having no subsequent changes in 2 such species regarding local warming within South Wisconsin region during time spans from 1936 to1947 and from 1976 to 1998. Similarly, in European regions, extension in the growing season of 12 shrubs and tree species has contributed towards increasing temperature. A similar trend is also observed in Colorado and shortgrass steppe ecosystem thereby leading to enhanced minimum temperatures based on responses of C3 and C4 species’ responses.
Regarding the changes in precipitation on the regional scale has been quite uncertain and hard to predict regarding future climate that include the reorganization of semi-arid ecosystems in Arizona. It included an increase of woody shrubs that is linked with the increases in the winter precipitation together with the withdrawal of mesic species towards high rainfall and low-temperature areas. The very same phenomenon is attributed towards the long-term reduction in the West African Sahel rainfall (Gonzalez 217-228).
Temperature related effects in different animals are documented in different taxonomical groups that include birds, amphibians, insects, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates. Terrestrial based evidence in animals is largely related to elevational and poleward changes in special distribution thereby increasing in spatial diversity and abundance. It also includes phenology (more specifically, advances in the timings of reproduction), genetic and physiological adaptations.
Elevational and poleward shifts has been associated with the regional warming within the British, European and North America butterfly species (Ellis et al. 119-125), birds (Thomas and Lennon 213) and more specifically, insects (Fleming and Tatchell 505-508). A study from Prop et al. (339-346) has discovered that the enhancement in spring temperatures together with Norway’s different agricultural practices has allowed barnacle geese to shift towards north thereby invading active agricultural areas. Apart from those changes in species distribution together with an abundance of birds, amphibians and reptiles in Costa Rica has also been associated with the altering patterns of Pacific SST (Sea-Surface Temperature) and dry seasons mist frequency.
Considering the birds migration, different bird’s species have also suffered from the alteration in reproduction patterns. Zhou et al. (303-313) have found that the warming trend in the spring is quite closely associated with the aphid flights within the UK. A similar pattern is also observed during the autumn migratory period within the Germany and Alps regions. In North American regions, Mexican jays egg laying trend is also shifting towards the minimum monthly temperatures within the Arizona (Smith et al. 924 925).
Walther et al. (389) have also shed light on the critical phenological events and covered aspects of earlier sighting of birds, earlier appearance of migrant birds together with patterns involving spawning and choruses in different amphibians. The events have become quite prominent after the early 1960s as part of changing environmental and climate regional and global conditions. Regarding leaf coloring of the tree during autumn, it has been observed that the leaf color changes have showed an increasing trend of delay of 0.3 to 1.6 days every decade. However, in some climate alteration sensitive region, the value is as high as 3.6 days per decade during the last five decades.
Marine Ecosystems and Coastal Zones
In different marine and coastal ecosystems, Smith et al. (925) have provided substantial evidence regarding changes in biological and physical systems that are incorporated with the regional climate change in climate; more specifically, sea surface and warming of the air temperatures. However, marine ecosystems are completely different that includes massive scale ocean-atmosphere phenomenon from climate change perspective.
Changes in the very physical systems considering coastal zones are largely related with the local increasing temperature trends that are associated with trends of sea level and coastal erosion. Since the very beginning of the 1950s, the Arctic’s degree of sea ice has subsequently decreased to around 10-15%. However, in recent decades, a massive decline of 40% in the sea ice thickness of Arctic has been observed thereby affecting weather cycles.
Marine ecosystems have faced extinction level danger associated with the ocean and air temperature rises. It includes the increase in chinstrap penguins, decline in Adelie penguins and decline of rockhopper penguin during the recent decades as part of altering bird habitat. Moreover, the effects of Antarctic food web have also been altering from decline cycles of winters having extended sea ice development and sale abundance. Similarly, increase in the abundance of macroinvertebrate southern species with the subsequent decrease in northern species within the rocky intertidal areas of the Californian coast is quite coherent with current altering global warming and climate conditions. Furthermore, increasing annual temperature is another possible cause of increasing abundance of plankton in the region of German Bight (Smith et al. 295).
Some of the human systems are also unique and threatened by the very climate changes. These systems tend to be a part of isolated and poor communities that are somehow tied with specific ecosystems or locations. Among these human systems are the small state islands and indigenous communities.
As part of having a small size and low elevation, most of the small islands based states are quite threatened with virtually total flooding condition because of rising sea levels. Moreover, the enhanced frequency and intensity of cyclones have also proved to be quite detrimental to almost all of these small islands. The very well-being and the existence of the States are quite severely threatened with the sea level rise and climate changes during next few centuries. Most of the small island states includes the nations of Indian and Pacific Oceans and are considered the most vulnerable considering the climate changes. The menace of coastal erosion, sea flooding, saline intrusion and most importantly, land-based pollution are some of the most severe problems faced by the people living as part of islands. Also, among these very critical factors includes the rising sea levels that would surely damage local ecosystems and in extreme cases, can lead towards extinction of these islands. From rise in sea level, the islands can face accelerated coastal erosion, deterioration of coral reef from thermal stresses and sea level rise, alteration of water quality and aquifer volume with enhanced saline intrusion, social instability regarding the migration of locals and most importantly, outmigration as part of permanent inundation. Other social impacts include the loss of the very income from detrimental impacts on tourism industry together with the accelerated vulnerability of settlement of humans because of decreased land area. Apart from that, the area would also suffer from loss of vegetation and agriculture.
Quite similar to the case of small islands, the indigenous community also suffers from changing climate dynamics. The locals usually live in quite harsh environments in coherence with their traditions and culture. On the other hand, the indigenous community also has quite a lower income thereby inhibiting the isolated rural environments and quite away from large cities and towns. Hence, the community suffers from rather escalated social problems as compared to small state Islands locals. The indigenous community has to face problems including inadequate and insufficient water supply, lack of economic security and most importantly, diminished health-related standards. These very inadequacies put a great deal of social pressure and would pose a severe risk because of climate-related natural calamities and their aftermath impacts. There are some reasons behind the unique traits of the indigenous community. The first and foremost includes that they are quite vulnerable to different climate disasters including floods, storms, and droughts. Aspects of pests and diseases; more specifically respiratory, vector-borne and other infectious diseases pose a severe danger to the indigenous community. Secondly, their very own lifestyles are quite related to the current climate conditions together with wildlife and vegetation. Also, the changes in current climate conditions could prove to be life-threatening for the people based on their lifestyle and different choice that they make considering their future. Nevertheless, considering the fact that the people would start migrating to much better living conditions would create a sudden influx of those people thereby leading to issues in land area usage (Smith et al. 935-956).
Climate Change – Reversing the Damages
The mentioned impacts are speculated to increase with the increase in global warming thereby leading to even massive climate changes all around the world. However, most of these impacts can be effectively addressed via adaptation. The adaptation routes would diminish with increased severity of climate changes.
The range of forthcoming adaptive responses is quite commonly available to human societies. It includes purely technological advances (like, sea defenses), through different behavioral (including, modified recreational and food alternatives), to managerial (changed farm practices) and towards better policy making (like, planning regulations). However, these measures are quite specific based on climate risk ad geographical factors and is also linked with political, institutional and financial constraints. For developing countries, constructing adaptive capacity and provision of resources is quite important.
Nevertheless, adaptation is surely not the only expected way to address the very concerns of climate changes and cannot be considered a long-term solution to the very problem. For that, sustainable developments should have to be made to reduce vulnerability to climate changes. The sustainable development allows the better adaptive capacity and enhanced resilience. At the current stage, quite fewer plans have been proposed to the promotion and implementation of successful sustainable ventures. On the other hand, it is anticipated that the climate change would also impede the pace of progress either through prolonged exposure to the very adverse impacts or the indirect impact via erosion of adaptive capacity.
All in all, the climate change is presenting an imminent danger to the very survival of different species on the face of the earth. It has also caused changes in the local and global habitat of animals and plants thereby reducing biological and ecological diversity. Among one of the most contributing cause for it includes increasing air and ocean temperature that is creating hurdles in the survival of species. However, mitigating actions can be employed for reducing as well as avoiding climate change impacts. A blend of mitigating and adaptation measures would result towards reducing the risks related to climate change.
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