Global Warming… Danger at All Measures! (Part II)

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In our first article, we tackled the importance of stopping CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, but what if we do not? Global temperatures will continue to rise; by at least 2-4.5°c late this century. Warming will be greatest on land, especially continental interiors, and Polar Regions. With more heat energy and water vapor in the atmosphere, climate and weather of all kinds will become more extreme:

  • Storms may become more intense and more frequent. Wet areas will generally become wetter and dry areas drier.
  • Droughts will get longer and more intense, and will extend to new areas, including the Mediterranean, Middle East, Central Asia and southern Africa, all of which can expect substantially less rain.
  • Melting glaciers and ice sheets on land will raise sea levels.

According to published analyses, we can expect more than a one-meter sea level rise by 2100; enough to displace at least 100 million people in Asia; 14 million people in Europe; and 8 million each in Africa and South America. However, sea-level rise will not stop in 2100. All that could be just the start.

The Impacts

The climate plays such a major role in our planet's environmental system; even minor changes have large and complex impacts. It affects people and nature in countless ways and increases existing threats.

The world is witnessing extreme and unpredictable weather, with severe impacts on everything; heat waves, droughts, floods, tropical cyclones and hurricanes.

Glaciers too are at risk, they are ancient rivers of compressed snow that creep through the landscape, shaping the planet's surface. They are the Earth's largest freshwater reservoir, collectively covering an area the size of South America.

Glaciers have been retreating worldwide since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850); a period of cooling that occurred after a warmer era known as the Medieval Warm Period, extending from the 16th to the 19th centuries. However, in recent decades, they have begun melting at unbelievable rates. Over the next century, climate change will further increase the rate at which glaciers melt leading to floods and water shortage. As sea levels rise, coastal communities and habitats will be destroyed.

In addition to the previous risk of climate change, there are still much more, which we will tackle in our upcoming articles. These issues include melting of the Arctic and Antarctica, bleaching of coral reefs, extinction of various species, affecting future water supply and quality, agriculture crops, and human health.

Global warming is not a problem that has appeared overnight; how much longer are we going to allow it to continue? Stay tuned for the last part of this series, in which we will tackle “How to Take Action”.

References
panda.org
powerscorecard.org
wikipedia.com


*Adapted from the official website of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
**Published in the PSC Newsletter, Summer 2010.

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