No issue affecting economic and environmental policy has generated so much controversy in recent decades as climate change. Few people deny that climate change has been happening across the globe for eons. However, over the last hundred years, climate change has been occurring at an accelerated rate due to anthropogenic, or man-made, activity. Within the scientific community and among climate scientists, there is no doubt that climate change is happening faster than ever before and that its causes are entirely human in origin (Lashof & Ahuja, 1990; McKibben, 2011). In addition to disrupting both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, climate change poses a threat to human survival itself.
Climate change, also known somewhat less accurately as global warming, has manifested itself in a number of different ways that create hazards to our way of life. Climate change or global warming is predicted to increase the intensity and frequency of climactic events, such as hurricanes and heat waves (McKibben, 2011). As warmer temperatures cause polar ice caps to melt, ocean waters to warm, and sea levels to rise, climatologists predict an associated surge in typhoons, hurricanes, and cyclones. In addition, the heavy rains caused by such storm surges can extend hundreds of miles inland, worsening the risk of flooding, and causing millions of dollars in damages along the coast. At the same time, warming temperatures over land contribute to an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme heat events. The dry conditions and droughts fueled by heat waves go hand in hand with wild fires, which destroy millions of acres of land each year, especially in arid regions such as Australia and California.
Climate change poses significant threats to human agriculture (Jenkinson, Adams, & Wild, 1991). Specific climate conditions have an impact on a number of factors that affect agriculture, including soil moisture and pH, nutrient levels, the length of the growing season, and water availability. Global warming will have ramifications for all of these factors. In addition, certain pests, fungi, and bacteria tend to thrive in the warmer conditions brought about by global warming, and this can have a negative impact on crop yield. In the short term, warmer temperatures and greater atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to global warming may have a positive effect on agricultural productivity (Root et al., 2003). However, in the long term, more extreme temperatures and greater rainfall has the potential to harm crops. In 2008, for instance, over $8 billion in farming revenue was lost when the Mississippi River flooded fields just before the harvest period was about to begin (“Agriculture and Food Supply,” 2013).
The question that I am endeavoring to answer through the course of my research is, “in which ways are humans adapting and responding to the dangers of climate change?” I hope to answer this question in regard to the aspect of disaster preparedness, as well as the measures being taken to combat global warming's impact on agricultural yields. Additionally, I hope to discover the other adverse ways in which climate change is predicted to have an effect on human life, and to determine which measures, if any, have been taken to prepare for those effects.
I plan to conduct my research through a thorough investigation of existing literature, including the books, academic research papers, and government reports that have been written on this subject. Specifically, I plan to refer to the most recent assessment report issued by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014, and the EPA's Climate Change Report.
Root, Terry L., et al. "Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants." Nature 421.6918 (2003): 57-60.
“Agriculture and Food Supply.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. 9 September 2013. Web. 9 July 2015.
Jenkinson, David S., D. E. Adams, and A. Wild. "Model estimates of CO2 emissions from soil in response to global warming." Nature 351.6324 (1991): 304-306.
Lashof, Daniel A., and Dilip R. Ahuja. "Relative contributions of greenhouse gas emissions to global warming." (1990): 529-531.
McKibben, Bill. Eaarth: Making a life on a tough new planet. Vintage Books Canada, 2011.