Grave Effects of Climate Change on the Environment
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported again and again on the grave effects of climate change. After years of scientific research and debate as well as efforts to mobilize governments across the world, global leaders signed up to the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement outlines how we can avoid the irreversible and detrimental effects of climate change. This will require commitment and tenacity – a lot of regions are already experiencing climate change and if we are to ensure that global temperatures do not rise above 2 degrees Celsius we will need to act quickly and decisively. The problem is that despite the rhetoric, actual government policies will miss the 2-degree target.
And while it is never a happy task to be the bearer of bad news or to be always highlighting that efforts are falling short of meeting targets; someone has to remind us of the bigger picture and what is really at stake.
So, let’s go over some of the grave effects of climate change to the environment.
Environmental impacts of climate change
Climate change and diminishing food security
Rising temperatures are affecting our climate and as a result, it affects our environment and the functions it delivers. One such key function is nutrient replenishment. Climate change puts nutrient cycles at risk, which has a knock-on effect on soil fertility.
Such effect is not only important in terms of preserving biodiversity and habitats, but it is also critical for agricultural activity and food security. More specifically, as soils become dryer with climate change, this impacts nitrogen and carbon concentrations which are the building blocks for plant growth .
What is more, climate change is likely to change the landscape in many areas. Temperature and climate changes can lead to the proliferation of pests, which can now inhabit higher latitudes as those regions grow warmer. Some pests will be able to reproduce more often because warm periods will last longer.
Climate change and worse air pollution
Climate change also has an impact on air quality. According to a recent study, by the end of the century, more than half of the world’s population will be exposed to increasingly stagnant atmospheric conditions, with the tropics and subtropics bearing the brunt of the poor air quality .
Air stagnation results from three meteorological incidents: light winds, a stable lower atmosphere and a day with little or no precipitation to wash away pollution. If greenhouse gases were to rise significantly in the future, estimates indicate that 55% of the global population will experience more air stagnation by 2099.
Large areas of India, Mexico and the Amazon could see up to 40 more stagnant air days per year compared to the average annual tally from 1986 to 2005 .
Climate change and disappearing wildlife
One of the first things to be hit by the effects of climate change is our wildlife. According to international experts, global warming is likely to be the greatest cause of species extinctions this century with estimates indicating that a 1.5°C average rise may put 20 to 30% of species at risk of extinction .
What is particularly worrying is that it is not just individual species that will be lost, but ecosystems as a whole will suffer. A lot of our ecosystems are already straining to adapt to deforestation and other types of pollution. The impact of adapting to climate change is therefore likely to be the straw to break the camel’s back.
Some of the species that are threatened include iconic animals which perform key functions in their own habitat. For example, tigers (whose numbers in the wild have already declined to as few as 3,200) will be at risk as climate change is predicted to increase sea levels and the risk of fire which will result in further fragmenting their habitats .
Asian rhinos are another species at risk as climate change will disrupt weather patterns in northern India and Nepal. These rhinos depend on the annual monsoon to bring sufficient and timely rain to replenish the vegetation they feed on. A changing climate would disrupt this pattern and lead to droughts followed by periods of floods.
Climate change and problems with water quality
Climate change is having serious impacts on the world’s water systems through flooding, droughts, as well as more extreme rainfall patterns. This creates further pressures on rivers and lakes that supply water for people and animals.
What is more, the world’s oceans are also put at risk. Oceans are considered “carbon sinks” because they absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, limiting its potential to contribute to further global warming.
However, increased water temperatures and ever-increasing carbon dioxides concentrations mean that oceans are changing and becoming more acidic. This affects fish and other marine organisms living there. Coral reefs are particularly at risk. Sensitive coral species and algae are starved of oxygen, which leads to a dramatic bleaching and possibly even the death of the coral.
In the end, we must keep reminding ourselves what climate change and its impacts mean for our planet and our own lives. Regrettably, climate change is not something we can afford to ignore any longer.
What can be done to reduce climate change?
While we are encountering the impacts of global climate change almost on a daily basis today, there are many things that we can do right now that will dramatically reduce the most severe climate change impacts in the future.
#1 A global shift to renewable energy
If we are ever to make meaningful progress to reduce climate change, we must cut our use of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power that do not produce any greenhouse gases.
With the new batteries that can store renewable power for both residential and commercial scales, it will become easier over time to shift away from fossil fuels.
#2 Reduce our energy use
Making buildings and homes more energy-efficient, choosing more energy-efficient appliances, and choosing fuel-efficient and electric vehicles are just a few of the opportunities to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
#3 Sustainable agriculture
Agriculture is a large user of fossil fuels, so we must change how we produce our food to methods such as permaculture and biodynamic farming that require little to no inputs, follow principles found in nature, store carbon in the soil, and do not depend upon fossil fuels.
#4 Localize our food system
Much of our food travels large distances from where it is grown and produced to where we consume it. These “food miles” require a lot of energy (and fossil fuels). By choosing to locally source as much of our food as possible, we dramatically reduce the amount of fossil fuel that is required to bring our food to us.
#5 Save water
By saving water, we reduce the energy (and fossil fuels) that is required to bring water to us through pipes and other infrastructure.
#6 Sustainable investments
Many people unknowingly hold financial investments in the fossil fuels industry, which is contributing to climate change and fighting the most significant climate actions.
Check with your financial advisor to determine if you have any fossil fuel investments and switch them to companies that are invested in sustainable energy.
#7 Carbon sequestration
Not only must we stop putting more carbon and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we must also sequester (store) them.
We must restore natural ecosystems such as forests and native prairies that store carbon in the soil and in biomass, and we must stop our destruction of existing forests, peatlands, and other ecosystems that act as huge stores of carbon.
We must plant as many trees as possible on Earth to sequester our carbon, and we also need to implement sustainable agriculture systems that store carbon in the soil.
#8 Private sector leadership
Many companies have now become leaders in saving energy, sustainability, and innovation to reduce fossil fuel use, but there are plenty of other companies that still have a long way to go in taking climate leadership.
#9 Vote with your money
Pledge to support those companies that are actively striving to reduce or eliminate their carbon emissions both in their operations and with their products themselves and boycott those companies that are standing in the way of necessary change for climate action.
#10 Recycle and reuse
By reusing and recycling items, we save energy (and the associated fossil fuels) that it would otherwise have taken to produce new items.
#11 Support climate action policies and candidates
We should be supporting policies and political candidates that will commit to taking action on climate change. Climate change is an issue that we simply cannot afford to delay action on any longer.
#12 Revolutionize transportation
By improving the fuel-efficiency of vehicles, the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels, and alternative energy vehicles, the transportation industry has a real opportunity to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
For our personal transportation, increasing our use of public transit, car-sharing, walking, and using bicycles to get from place to place reduces fossil fuel use as well.
- Support organizations that are working for climate action and are actively working to restore ecosystems.
- Reduce your commute or work from home. By working closer to come or working from home, you would reduce your use of fossil fuels on a daily basis.
#13 National and local policies
Policies should support tougher carbon emission regulations and efficiency standards for industry, adding subsidies to support renewable energy, and cutting subsidies for fossil fuels. These actions include the building of clean power plants, local government actions, and limiting carbon emissions from power plants.
#14 Simplify and consume less
By simplifying our lives and by buying less “stuff,” we reduce our use of energy and natural resources, including fossil fuels.