By Marlena Norwood
By now, we are all aware that climate change is real – and largely the result of human activity. Some of the consequences of global warming are well known: disappearing lakes, increased floods and hurricanes, and more rampant forest fires – not to mention the melting of the thick permafrost layer of the Earth, causing sink holes.
But what else is happening as our planet slowly heats up? According to the International Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report, Earth’s temperature is predicted to increase almost another four degrees in the next 80 years. What other consequences of global warming are we seeing?
Changes in natural animal habitats are occurring all over. The New York Daily News published an eerie picture of 10,000 walruses in Alaska wandering ashore in a gigantic pack because the ice they live on is quickly melting.
Bees are also experiencing changes in their ecosystems due to global warming. Bees pollinate flowers while they migrate during a specific season. When those season dates are off, like an earlier spring, flowers risk not being pollinated and the bees risk not having food. Bees can adapt, but their habitats are at risk of being altered and their populations are drastically changing. Without bees, humans cannot survive.
Populations of koalas could dwindle in the coming years do to increased temperatures as well. They rely on shade from trees and moisture to keep them cool. With increased deforestation and more frequent heat waves from global warming,, their survival is threatened.
Animals aren’t the only ones directly affected. One study found a correlation between increasing numbers of farmer suicides in Australia and more frequent droughts – a devastating consequence of global warming. Droughts destroy crops, taking a toll on farmers’ livelihoods and consequently their mental state.
Speaking of crops, one greatly threatened by increasing temperatures is chocolate. Cocoa plants thrive in West Africa. Unfortunately, a couple degrees increase in global temperatures would render the cocoa farms useless.
Since droughts affect the production of crops, they also affect the production of things made from crops, like jeans. Cotton production is severely inhibited by droughts and decreasing water supply. Additionally, one pair of jeans needs “919 gallons of water during its life cycle,” a striking amount especially in the face of drought. Because of this, expect jean prices to increase in the near future.
So, what to do about climate change? You’ve heard it all before – drive less and bike more, take public transportation, conserve electricity, etc. But how much have you acted upon? Start taking action now. Don’t think of climate change as something that just affects the “environment.” Start thinking of climate change as devastating for every organism that calls the planet home, including you.
Here are some ideas from the EPA’s “What You Can Do” suggestions to help stop global warming:
- Replace a few light bulbs in your house with ENERGYSTAR to begin saving electricity immediately.
- Compost, compost, compost! Composting greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A good way to start is by putting a strictly compost bin in your kitchen for leftover food, napkins, and other compostable materials so you’re not tempted to throw them in the trash. (Read here for composting solutions if you don’t have routine compost pickup in your neighborhood!)
- Use renewable fuels in your car such as biodiesel and E85. They are used in Flex Fuel Vehicles. FFVs are more common than you’d think – you may own one without knowing it!