Is anthropogenic climate change (what used to be known as "global warming") a problem that needs immediate and/or long term attention?
Anthropogenic climate change has been an issue rising all over the world. It is considered to have more negative impacts than positive ones as the world continues to experience the effects of such global change in all aspects of life. Scientists have indicated that each year, the world continues to heat up, and resources are slowly dwindling for all living beings. It is visible in recent years that weather patterns have gradually turned for the worst as typhoons, storms, floods, and even drought are affecting areas that are not usually affected by these natural calamities. Humans, in their own extent, have been contracting diseases that are now seen by science as incurable and continuously mutates to a more potent and severe form. Resources is now slowly dwindling due to massive production and use, causing the balance of the ecosystem to falter with the lack of food, water, and shelter resource. With these problems in mind, it showcases that global warming would subsequently influence the ecosystem, fostering the domino effect of health and living hazards for all inhabitants of the planet thus the need for immediate and long term attention.
The importance of undermining the resolution of the problem on anthropogenic climate change is due to the capacity of global warming or climate change in influencing the entire ecosystem. According to Maslin (2007), anthropogenic climate change or man-made climate change is considered one of the major reasons on why climate change exists today. The first studies regarding man’s influence in global warming started in the 1900s, when the accidental discovery of Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius showcased that humans are capable of producing carbon dioxide that exceed the globe’s natural requirements was made public. Other studies have also noted in the mid-1900s that man-made carbon dioxide accumulates to the ocean and causes an increase in the temperatures by up to 5.4° F. Roger Revelle and Charles Keeling led the discussions in the 1950s to the 1960s. Their discoveries identified that due to the carbon dioxide emissions done by man, an increase of 5.4° F would continue to increase by the end of the 20th century . Recently, the IPCC announced in 2009 that humans contribute to the increase in global warming due to the constant use of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and the increasing demand in energy use. Given the studies that emphasize the onset of anthropogenic global warming, its immediate impacts are visible in the ecosystem.
According to Watson, Zinyowera and Moss (1997), anthropogenic climate change can foster significant changes in the ecosystem such as the increased warm temperature, severe weather patterns, and even the extinctions of various species. Ecosystems are vital actors in environmental function as it enables sustainability to revolve around food production, waste management, water resource purification, soil recovery, and biodiversity. Changes to the climate would then affect several species that are indigenous to certain types of ecological systems. The primary influence of anthropogenic climate change is noted to be the adaption of ecosystems and reestablish themselves with the increased CO2 concentrations. Another notable impact of climate change to the ecosystem is the composition of soil characteristics and disturbances, like diseases, flies and the scarcity of food . According to Dawson and Spannagle (2009), several physical attributes of ecosystems would also be affected as the higher latitudes would experience higher and faster warming than this form the lower latitudes due to the increasing melting of the permafrost and the Artic/Antartic ecosystems. Subtropics would tend to have smaller chances of rain, eventually facing drought and more violent tropical storms. Water chemistry would also change, causing essential nutrients from water to disappear and cause several viruses to infect these supplies.
However, there are people who see that climate change caused by humans would affect the globe in a negative light. Some skeptics even believe that humans are not the cause of climate change, and it could benefit the ecosystem in the long run. Letcher (2009) noted that climate change can be attributed to the cosmic weather changes and several space phenomena as they tend to warm up the planet. There had also been reports that cosmic radiation from the Sun fostered the erratic weather changes and the nature of the atmosphere. Some experts and researchers even saw the benefits of ecosystems upon the problem on anthropogenic global warming. In one example, the study done by Phys.org (2012) indicate that seagulls would immensely benefit from climate change as warm waters would provide them with enough food source such as swimming crabs. There is also the abundance in newer species of crustaceans are also prominent in chances of warm water such as the Henslow’s swimming crab. Seagulls also take in the newer climates to breed as studies presented that there is an increase in breeding pairs of lesser black-backed seagulls that feed upon the crabs for the past few years . In another article written by Donovan (2008), Michigan Technological University's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science scientists pointed out that warm temperatures and the moderate increase in nitrogen would improve the forest's productivity. In an interview done by Donovan to the head of the research team from MTU Andrew Burton, he noted that trees tend to grow faster at higher and warmer temperatures. Trees are also capable of storing more carbon if they are subjected or near regions with high concentrations of nitrogen. While the rise in temperature causes the growing season for trees to extend, Burton noted that it would only take 10 to 11 days in addition for trees to grow fully upon maturation. It would benefit the timber industries as it would enable them to harvest more timber, and also the users of woody biomass, which is now being tested as an alternative energy source .
While there are indeed benefits and alternate conclusions as to the reason of climate change's continuous influence in the environment, studies have firmly stressed that anthropogenic climate change or climate change entirely, can pose severe dangers especially in terms of health. With the ecosystem influenced by the increasing temperature and erratic weather patterns, it is possible that the environment itself would foster changes on how the body can accumulate or disregard the changes. According to Karl, Melillo, Peterson and Hassol (2009), climate change itself poses higher risks for health as it can directly impact the environment. More severe heat waves and storms would be experienced around the globe, fostering airborne allergens and climate-sensitive diseases to be contracted by the public. The high cases of heat also tend to increase the risk of illness and death, which also goes the same for high cases of cold. In the United States alone, almost 12% of its population is prone to dying or illness due to increase heat or cold. Almost 3,400 deaths have also been reported since 1999 which all were identified to be cases of extreme heat stroke . Recovery from diseases caused by climate change is also hard to manage, as the extreme weather conditions can cause plants and animals from regressing growth and reduced production. In the case of animals, it would be harder for them to maintain their numbers as many tend to die due to the warm temperatures. Today, at least a quarter of all the species around the globe are noted to be extinct or from areas with smaller habitats. Some animals also tend to contract diseases similar to vector-borne diseases, contributing to the extinction of several species or genus. Plants also tend to become extinct due to the lack of nutrients from normal food supplies, such as water and soil, and the extreme heat that dehydrates their water content. The temperature alone causes a threat for biodiversity as the ecosystem itself could no longer assist in fostering growth for various species .
While there have been conflicting theories as to what factor constitutes the ongoing climate situation, it is visible that anthropogenic or man-made climate change that adds concern to many citizens due to its immediate influence in the ecosystem and health. The varying temperatures and erratic weather systems are noted to cause severe drought, increased chances of natural disasters, and the high chances of resource depletion such as fresh water, food, and even sustainability. With the ecosystem gradually weakened and contaminated with high temperature and chemical components such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide, health risks would eventually start epidemics in nations and a few would be prone in contracting incurable diseases. It may be true that there are some benefits in climate change that can foster development and growth for fauna and fawn, climate change would still impact biodiversity and health as both animals and humans would be vulnerable to high concentrations of chemicals and temperatures that may be unbearable to the body. Although the lingering effects of anthropogenic climate change had already made its mark since the past decades, governments must immediately work on strategies, from mitigation from emission reduction, to ensure that the risks of climate change to the ecosystem and to the rest of the globe would be lessen. It may take years or decades for strategies to show a significant effect, however, beginning the recovery process now would enable the planet to recover from the blows of man-made climate change. It is also crucial to resolve the problem immediately as the hazards of continuous pollution and warming may trigger additional risks to life that can no longer be mediated with regular policies and climate mitigation procedures. Once mitigation and climate change policies are enforced, it is also crucial to pay close attention to it the long run as it is plausible that one neglected policy may double the effects of global warming.
Dawson, B., & Spannagle, M. (2009). The Complete Guide to Climate Change. Oxon: Oxford University Press.
Donovan, J. (2008, October 20). Climate Change, Acid Rain Could Be Good for Forests. Retrieved October 26, 2012, from Michigan Tech News/Media: http://www.admin.mtu.edu/urel/news/media_relations/767/
Karl, T., Melillo, J., Peterson, T., & Hassol, S. (2009). Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Letcher, T. (2009). Climate Change: Observed Impacts on Planet Earth. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Maslin, M. (2007). Global Warming: Causes, Effects, and the Future. Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company.
Phys.org. (2012, July 5). Seagulls feel the benefits of climate change. Retrieved October 26, 2012, from Phys.Org: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-seagulls-benefits-climate.html
Watson, R., Zinyowera, M., & Moss, R. (1997). The Regional Impacts of Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.