Introduction to the Effects of Global Warming
Global warming is a direct result of the accumulation of greenhouse gases that have gathered in the earth’s upper atmosphere and are preventing some of the solar infrared radiation emitted from earth from entering deep space. This causes the earth to overheat, unbalancing our fragile climate structure, and causing detrimental effects such as rising sea levels, windy, wetter and warmer weather paterns and melting of the ice caps. Some species of flora and fauna, along with ecosystems already under stress, will become extinct if we continue to sit back and do little to mitigate the situation.
This is another article in my series on climate change. In this article, we shall examine the major effects of global warming on the environment.
We start by listing these impacts and go on to look at the repercussions of them.
The Effects of Global Warming
The major effects of global warming are numerous. Some of these effects are listed below:
- Rising world temperatures
- Rising sea levels
- Climate change
- Melting glaciers, polar ice and sea ice
- Bleaching of coral reefs
- Species extinction
The Effects of Global Warming
Rising Sea Levels
Rising sea levels are caused by two distinct events, the melting of polar glaciers, and the expansion of seawater.
- Melting of Polar Glaciers
Due to the rise in the Earth’s temperature, the polar glaciers are being closely monitored and have been seen to be melting and reducing in area. Glaciers are formed on top of landm therefore, when they melt they add to the volume of the world's seawater.
- Expansion of seawater
As the Earth's temperature rises, heat is transmitted to our oceans. This causes the seawater at the top 100 meters or so of our oceans to expand, thus raising their levels. This rise in the temperature of the sea has the adverse effect of causing coral reefs to become bleached. This is the term given to the reefs when the algae and other marine life which live on the coral die, causing the coral to lose its vibrant colors.
Climate change due to rising temperatures
This is one of the major issues being investigated today in relation to global warming.
- Weather variations
Scientists have predicted that our climate will become more windy, wet and warmer. Wind will increase in speed and duration. Rainfall will increase in the winter months and decrease in the summer months. Temperatures are already rising at an estimated 0.1οC every year and scientists predict that a rise of 4οC can be expected by the end of this century.
- Increase in adverse geological occurrences
As well as causing a rise in sea levels, some geologists have blamed the increase of occurrence of earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis on the disappearing glaciers.
Loss of habitat is caused by flooding or turning it into a barren dessert. Reduction in flora and fauna will result from the extinction of species due to stress and starvation.
The Impacts of Global Warming on the Enviornment
Rising Sea Levels
This will exacerbate coastal flooding necessitating erection of higher coastal barriers; control by this method by the industrial nations is being acted upon. However, the poorer third world nations, especially those with low-lying tropical islands, cannot afford this protection, so they are likely to lose their homes to the sea.
Rising sea levels will also threaten many of the world's estuaries. Some of these estuaries have valuable ecosystems within their mudflats, which are supported by the freshwater from the rivers. The encroachment of saltwater into this habitat could do irreparable damage to its habitants, causing mass extinction of some species. This will escalate to the reduction of some already endangered species of permanent and migrating wildfowl, which depend on the mudflats for food.
Ingress of seawater into freshwater supplies has been predicted, which is bad enough in the western world, but is even more disastrous for the third world countries already suffering from lack of clean drinking water supplies.
Wind is predicted to increase in velocity causing structural damage, bringing down trees and power lines and causing storms at sea.
Rainfall is also forecasted to increase in winter but decrease in summer. We have already suffered from flooding over the last decade, and some of us have seen water rationing because of drought.
A predicted rise in the world’s temperature of 4οC will reduce our crop yields and will eventually lead to changes in current methods of crop cultivation, necessitating their replacement by more tropical suited varieties.
Finally, there have been recorded instances of spring being early by up to two weeks, totally confusing the wildlife population. Reports have also been made that some rivers are becoming too warm to support fish, especially salmon.
The glaciers exert an enormous pressure on the land they have been formed on. When they melt, this pressure is released and geologists believe this sudden release of pressure on the Earth is the cause of the recent increase in volcanic action, earthquakes, and tsunamis worldwide.
The species which may be already endangered can be exposed to flooding or drought, with the loss of their food chain and destruction of their habitats, eventually leading to extinction.
Global warming is caused by the accumulation of anthropogenic greenhouse gasses which prevent the exit of long-wave infrared radiation emitted from Earth into space.
There are many effects of global warming, all requiring immediate action, but climate change with the associated rise in sea levels and elevated world temperatures being the most urgent cases.
These three major effects alone are harbingers of major world disasters for humans, flora and fauna throughout the world.
Some of these disasters, such as floods, droughts, hurricanes and earthquakes, are escalating, and are set to continue throughout this century – unless we all do something about it.
This can be achieved by mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the impacts of global warming.