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Monday, August 23, 2010

Impacts of Global Warming

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About two thousand leading scientists of the world got together in 1995 to discuss and decide about the Global Warming. These scientists, discussing and deciding under the banner of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), came to the conclusion that the global warming was real, serious and accelerating. The panel predicted that the earth’s average temperature could rise further by 1.4 to 5.8 Celsius degrees within next 100 years. It may cause serious changes in weather pattern that may surely endanger our lives, our agriculture, and our plants as well as our animals.

The Global Warming has following effects on human societies, agriculture, other plants and animals –

I. Effects of Global Warming on Human Society
Any adverse change in the weather pattern or in the environment on the whole, is sure to affect adversely the lives of human beings. We can easily understand that a warmer climate is sure to change the patterns of rain fall and snow fall. It is sure to cause increases in the frequency and severity of drought and floods also. The increasing heat will cause the air to expand and develop more capacity of holding moisture. In turn, this is sure to affect our resources like water, forests, and different ecological systems. These conditions will affect the conditions of power generation, infrastructure, tourism and healthy living. 

The changes in temperature have already caused a number of disasters like cyclones, hurricanes, and other forms of storms across the world. In a nut shell we may conclude that changing climate due to the global warming will damage natural resources, together with causing spread of deadly diseases, displacement of human populations, hunger, loss of economy and shortage of human resources, in case the problem of global warming is not averted properly.

The Global Warming has various types of impacts on the whole earth, its systems and the whole human society.  Global Warming may cause frequent natural disasters like cyclones, storms and hurricanes, floods and droughts. Thus it may claim lives of large sections of human society. It may also cause cloud bursts, avalanches, landslides, mud- flows and earthquakes. A very large number of men, women and children are killed in these disasters. Thousands of people become homeless and migrate elsewhere to take shelter as refugees. Global Warming is causing melting of ice and glaciers which is leading to a rise in sea- level. As a result, the creeping up oceans swallow low laying islands, coastal areas, people and their property etc.  Such is the case of SATBHAYA village of Orissa State of India.

According to the fourth assessment Report, Brussels, April 2007 of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Warming Induced Climate Change causes following adverse impacts on human health –

•Increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with implication for child growth and development;
•Increased deaths, diseases and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts;
•The increased burden of diarrhoeal diseases;
•Increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone related to climate change; and
•The altered spatial distribution of vectors of some diseases.

Global Warming has wide ranging effects on many aspects of human life. It threatens economies, lives and traditions. In the U.S.A., Chicago experienced one of the worst weather related disasters in Illinois history when a heat wave resulted in 525 deaths during 5 day period in July of 1995. A warmer climate can expand the geographic range of tropical mosquito borne diseases such as Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever etc. to higher altitudes and the maturation of certain disease causing agents and their vectors. India was hit by a severe heat wave in 2003. Temperature reached as high as 50 Celsius degrees in May across the worst hit areas and over 1200 people died. Just 5 years earlier, the most disastrous heat wave that hit India during April- June 1998 with an estimated fatalities 3028. The temperature rose as higher as 45 to 49.80 Celsius degrees in several Indian states. The human caused global warming may have already doubled the chance of killer heat waves like the one that scorched Europe in July- August2003. The summer was hottest in Europe in July –August 2003. That summer was hottest in Europe in at least last 5000 years.

The rising sea level is causing loss of land, loss of property and loss of lives. It may also cause large scale displacement of people which may further create a problem of rehabilitation. The rising temperature due to global warming has melted down the ice of a number of glaciers. The total surface of glaciers worldwide has decreased by 50 per cent since the end of 19th century. According to a report, the snow cap that covered Mountain Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain of Africa, since last 11000 years, i.e. since the last ice age, was about to disappear up to March 2005. The ice caps of this mountain that gave it the name of the Shining Mountain are no longer shining now. Fascinated by its shining appearance, the famous author Ernest Hemmingway wrote his classic ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. But about 80 per cent of its snow has vanished now, since 1912. 

Image 1: Mount Kilimanjaro (source: Wikipedia)

II. Effects of Global Warming on Agriculture
Our demands for more and more food are rising on day by day due to increasing human population. The supply of food mainly comes from agriculture. But the increasing temperature followed by changes in climatic conditions due to global warming is sure to damage it.

Global warming may cause drought and outbreak of insects. Both of these conditions are damaging to agriculture. Higher temperature accelerates the maturation of earlier disease causing agents and their vectors. All these conditions cause damage to and failure of crops.

Climatic factors like temperature, wind, relative humidity, rain fall etc. have direct effects on agriculture. Since global warming is changing the global climates, adverse changes in agriculture and its production is bound to occur. On the other hand changing frequencies of natural disasters such as floods, cyclones, hurricanes, landslides, mud-flows etc. tend to vanish out our crops besides causing great losses to life and property. Hail storms, wind storms and also, fog and mist cause serious damages to our crops each year. In many parts of India, farmers go on demonstration and road jams demanding compensations from the government whenever their crops are damaged due to any of these reasons.

 In a democratic country the government is formed by the people themselves. On the other hand, climate change is a global tragedy the responsibilities of which go in everyone’s share. However, since the climate is changing, agriculture is sure to be damaged and such incidents are bound to follow because every one wants to live.

III. Effects of Global Warming on other Plants and Animals
Since all the plants and animals depend on a favorable climate, suitable habitats, food and appropriate breeding conditions for survival and development, the global warming followed by the climate change is sure to impose disastrous effects on them. In 1990s, the out break of Spruce Bark Beetle in South Central Alaska damaged 4 million acres of spruce forests. The Animal populations in Arctic region are declining fast due to rising temperature across the region. The disproportionate warming in this region has had detrimental effects on many arctic species including the Arctic Gull, Emperor Penguins , Arctic fox, and the polar beer. The total area of the Arctic sea ice has declined by 6 per cent over the last twenty years. Since 1979 damage to coral reefs and events of coral bleaching on a large scale has increased considerably.

The global warming has destructive effects on the world biodiversity. So far vast varieties of birds, reptiles, insects, bacteria, fungi, rodents etc. have vanished out due to these effects. The golden toads in the mountains of Costa Rica are believed to have gone extinct in recent years. The population of Salamanders and similar species are at the brink of extinction as their embryos do not develop properly under the conditions of rising temperature due to global warming.

Image 2 : Golden Toad of Florida( source Wikipedia)

In Central South America many of the mountain amphibians including the golden toads have been vanished due to global warming. This worldwide calamity is compounded by habitat loss and alien invasive species ‘making their impacts considerably worse. According to the WWF (Worldwide Fund for nature), with the doubling of carbon dioxide, climate change could eventually destroy 35 per cent of the world’s existing terrestrial habitats. Birds’ habitats will be altered through changes in sea level, fire regimes, vegetation and land use etc. Due to the Climate Anomaly caused by global warming, the population of the Emperor Penguins declined by 50 per cent during 1970s due to reduced adult survival caused by prolonged abnormally warm temperatures with reduced sea ice.

The population of the Siberian Crane, which is a critically endangered species, has reduced considerably up to few thousand individuals. It demonstrates the vulnerability of a wet land migratory bird to the climate change. Some populations of migratory birds have been declining sharply because of unfavorable variations in climatic conditions. The increasing deposits of carbon dioxide in oceanic waters due to global warming and other incidents are damaging mollusks due to which their population in marine waters has declined sharply.

Image 3: Siberian Crane (source: Wikipedia)

The global warming is damaging various ecosystems like mangrove- swamps, coral reefs and coastal lagoons etc. due to various reasons like reduction in pH of oceanic water and increasing deposits of acids. The migration time of spring butterflies in Britain has become earlier than it was 30 years ago. It has been observed that the behaviors of some bird species have changed due to climatic variations in the Indian state of Orissa. Some birds like Black Headed Oriole and Open Billed Stork have changed their times of migration where as some birds like Bronze Winged Jacana and Indian Small Skylark have changed their nesting behaviors. The change in climate due to rise in global temperature is causing migration of species of wild animals towards poles and high altitudes. Since those areas are already inhabited by animals of different species, the migrated species receive the status of Refugee Species.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) -2001, has made following predictions about the financial losses due to Climate Change caused by Global Warming-

(i).The annual loss due to frequent tropical cyclones; rising sea level causing loss of land , damage to fishing stocks, loss of agriculture and water supplies etc. could be more than US $300 000 million.
(ii).The Water Industry is estimated to face extra cost of US$47 000 million annually, on the global level up to 2050.
(iii). Droughts, floods and fires are estimated to cause a loss worth US$42 000 million to agriculture and forestry worldwide, in case  the levels of carbon dioxide reach up to twice of their concentration during pre-industrial era.
(iv). The cost of protecting homes, factories and power stations from floods due to the rising sea levels and storm surges may reach up to US$1000 million annually, on the global levels.
(v).The losses to different ecosystems including mangroves, swamps, coral reefs, and coastal lagoons could amount to more than US$70 000 million by 2050.

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