On the first part of this climate change series, we talked about climate change and its causes, and established a link between climate change and global warming.
In case you missed it or still don’t understand the whole climate change thing, read about it here.
Now you know what climate change is and what triggers it, let’s look at the effects of climate change on the environment.
In discussing the effects of climate change on the environment, we’ll look at it in groups – animals, water, plants, land, biodiversity. These groups are all related to each other. An effect on one is an effect on two or more, if not all.
From habitat destruction through fires, to habitat destruction through melting of ice caps, climate change has a great impact on animals and wildlife.
– Melting of ice caps:
As the temperature rises, the planet is warmed. Greater effects of this warming are seen in the polar region where ice caps are melting, leaving the animals like polar bears habitat-less.
Due to global warming and climate change, the first animal on the Endangered Species Act list of threatened species in 2008 was the polar bear.
– Forest fire:
The heat from the warming also triggers forest fires. I mean, we’re all aware of the Amazon fire and how that led to the death of thousands of animals and destroyed habitats.
Some of these animal specie are already at the verge of extinction, with climate change they may not stand a chance. This relates to loss of biodiversity.
You know what is a sink for carbon dioxide? The ocean. These guys absorb large concentrations of this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
– Ocean acidity:
With climate change, there’s great emission of greenhouse gases. As the concentration increases due to burning of fossil fuels and other causes, the ocean is forced to absorb this gas more than usual. With this increasing absorption coupled with increasing temperature of water caused by warming, the ocean becomes acidic.
– Damage to coral reefs:
As a result of this acidity, coral reefs are affected. An effect on it is an effect on the entire aquatic ecosystem.
These guys are the “rainforests of the sea.” They support over 25% of marine life and are important to the functioning of every aquatic ecosystem. Coral reefs supplies food and serves as a home for millions of species.
The acidic ocean dissolves the coral skeleton which is made of calcium carbonate, and the warm ocean also contributes to coral bleaching. This leads to the death of coral reefs.
Also, as the water becomes un-livable for sea creatures due to this acidity, the are forced to migrate. Some have their shells dissolved, and die as a result of this.
Another great sink for carbon dioxide is the forest. You know trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. With this they help clean the atmosphere. Read on the importance of trees here and how you can plant trees here.
– Insect infestations:
As the climate is warmed, the summer is prolonged. This increases the growing season of insect pests, allowing them to thrive. The forest is now more vulnerable to insect infestations.
– Forest Fires:
You know what comes next after insect infestations? Fire.
Once the insects are done devouring the trees, they are left dry and lifeless. Adding the heat from climate change and boom…there’s a forest fire.
The increasing temperature makes it really easy for the trees to catch fire because their leaves and branches are completely dried out. With this fire, habitats and biodiversity are lost, and there’s no mechanism left in place to remove the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Remember how trees remove carbon dioxide?
With climate change comes excess rainfall and prolonged drought. The excessive rainfall results in flooding, erosion, nutrients being washed off the soil, the soil becoming acidified due to nitrate leaching in the high rainfall areas, and many more. This contributes to land degradation.
In areas experiencing prolonged drought, the ground is completely dry due to the lack of water. Through this the soil structure especially that of clay soil, shrink due to this dryness, causing cracks. This in turn affects the land, also resulting in land degradation.
With our plant and animal species threatened by climate change through fires, habitat and ecosystems destruction and so on, what do you think is happening to our biodiversity? Our biodiversity is also threatened at this point.
The variety of life forms on Earth has to be preserved and it is impossible to do so with climate change around the corner.
Climate change is the inevitable. It’s already happening and the effects of climate change on the environment will keep increasing if we don’t act NOW. We need to come together and work together. Thanos wasn’t fought by one man.