World leaders have been meeting to talk about the problem of climate change and how to deal with it. However, they often found themselves having their work cut out for them. It would seem that despite everything they have done so far, we are still on a clear course to extreme global warming.
Since the quite unsung United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, over a hundred countries have pledged to take action on reducing emissions, seeing the world taking a major shift away from using coal in favor of using gas, which emits lesser amounts of greenhouse gases. Renewable power systems, such as solar panels, have also become much cheaper and are being deployed in various regions across the planet.
However, recent number-crunching analyses still show that none of these actions is enough. For example, Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia in the UK stated, “Our study shows no progress in curbing global carbon emissions.” She and her colleagues found that global carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and producing cement grew 2.3% in 2013 and are projected to increase further in the following years. “And they are projected to be around that for the next five years,” said Le Quéré. “There is no progress in spite of all the talk.”
Considering such information, we can just presume that the world could suffer from climate change in the future. And what could be the probable scientific worst case scenarios for global warming?
Changes in atmospheric conditions can widen the variety of diseases. Increased rainfall, warmer temperatures and the absence of sub-zero temperatures are all factors that can lead to the emergence of new types of rodents, insects and other organisms that can carry diseases and cause problems for humans and other animal species.
Increased Levels of Sea Acidification
One serious effect of the increasing carbon pollution is acidification of our oceans. Fact is, about a quarter of carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by the sea. As this compound dissolves in saltwater, it forms a weak carbonic acid that makes the ocean more acidic. This means harm towards marine wildlife.
Rise of Sea Levels
As shown by satellite images, the extent of the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by around 9% every 10 years since 1979. Also, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report revealed a conservative prediction that sea levels could rise about 10 to 23 inches by 2100 if the current patterns of global warming continue. This means low-lying cities, such as New York, Miami and Boston, will be at risk of flooding.
Devastation of Biodiversity
Rising atmospheric temperatures have led to changes in animal biodiversity throughout the planet. According to biologist Camille Parmesan in her study of climate change and animal biodiversity, “The direct impacts of anthropogenic climate change have been documented on every continent, in every nation, and in most major taxonomic groups.” Global warming is definitely a major contributing factor to the extinction of multiple species in the past years, especially in the Amazon Basin which is seeing changes in biodiversity in over 80% of the area it covers.
Destruction of Tropical Rainforests
In 2012, tropical rainforests held more than 50% of all species of plants and animals that are known to exist on Earth. However, because of huge amounts of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere and global warming, droughts would become more frequent. It is predicted that only 18% to 45% of wildlife may exist by 2100.
Melting of Permafrost
Many buildings, particularly those in Russia and China, are constructed on layers of permafrost, relying on this cryotic soil for a solid base. But due to increasing temperatures, permafrost layers will probably thaw, which results in land instability and then possible collapse of high-rise buildings.
Bleaching of Reefs
Increasing cases of reef bleaching, in which corals die with only their calcium skeleton remaining, are already happening these days. The main causes of this bleaching are convergence of disruptions from elevated temperatures in coastal waters, increases in water acidity, changes in salinity and a decline in plankton population, some of which are results of global warming. This situation is alarming, given that reefs are places of high biodiversity that serve as rich habitats for many species of fish that are important in our diet.
Even with just a little increase in temperature, some mid-latitude and semi-arid low-latitude regions can experience increased drought and decreased water availability. What if it is a greater increase? It would mean extreme drought, floods, erosion and a decrease in water quality. Also, rising sea levels will increase groundwater salinity and will decrease availability of freshwater in coastal regions. This will affect hundreds of millions of people and will cause suffering throughout society.
How Do We Manage the Problem?
Some countries have been doing their part to deal with their extreme air pollution problems, and their efforts to slow down emissions seemed to be working. They are drafting comprehensive climate change bills to reform their energy policies. In China, for example, government officials are considering a carbon tax to greatly reduce carbon dioxide output by 2040. However, this move might not be drastic enough. Recommending a change to the country’s program, A UK study states, “China should cap its coal consumption by 2020 or sooner and take steps to eliminate its use entirely by 2040 … by improving efficiency, taxing coal and focusing on alternative energies such as wind and solar.” This is a tough recommendation to implement, but can be realized with China’s deepest commitment.
Many people do not take the calamities that climate change can bring about seriously. After all, global warming occurs so slowly, causing it to be awfully ignored by the general population. However, we should remember that though the present effects may not seem to be an existing state of affairs, the later—and more harmful—consequences are alarming and really bad news for the environment.
Natalie Regoli is our editor-in-chief. The goal of ConnectUs is to publish compelling content that addresses some of the biggest issues the world faces. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.