The Face of Climate Change

Apr 22nd, 2013 | By | Category: Development and Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Events, Governance, Green House Gas Emissions, Information and Communication, International Agencies, Land, Lessons, News, Research, Vulnerability

061311_0220_EarthatBoil5.pngBusiness Recorder: On Sunday, billions of people around the world celebrated the International Earth Day. The main purpose of the day is to save our mother Earth from the challenges, which are threatening its existence. The global theme for Earth Day 2013 is “The Face of Climate Change”.

Earth Day history

Earth Day first celebrated on April 22, 1970 in the United States to remind the people of Earth of their shared responsibility as environmental stewards. On March 21, 1971, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General U Thant made Earth Day an international celebration. In 1990, the first official International Earth Day was celebrated. About 200 million people from 141 nations took part in a celebration of environmental conservation.

The first United Nations Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992 to discuss global problems such as climate change and the world-wide loss of native cultures and wild species.

Why is Erath Day important?

The Earth day highlights many environmental issues because rapid climate changes are increasing the risk of floods, melting of glaciers, strong storms and hurricanes in different parts of the world. For example, Peru has the world’s largest concentration of tropical glaciers; it used to be a ski resort; now its main attraction will be a climate change tour. Tourists come to see how much the glacier has retreated; the glacier has retreated 577m since 1982, according to Peru’s glaciology and hydric resources unit.

Causes of climate change

After years of research, scientists have found that the Earth is getting warmer because people are adding heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere known as greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases responsible for warming come from the combustion of fossil fuels in cars, factories and electricity production. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket. The thicker the blanket, the warmer our planet becomes. Another human influence on the climate is sulfur dioxide emissions, which are an originator to the formation of sulfate aerosols in the atmosphere.

The gas responsible for the most warming is carbon dioxide, also called CO2. Other contributors include methane released from landfills and agriculture (especially from the digestive systems of grazing animals), nitrous oxide from fertilisers, and gases used for refrigeration and industrial processes.

Impacts of climate change on human and wild life

Pakistan is ranked among top ten countries worst hit by the impacts of climate change in shape of severe floods, torrential rains, rise in temperature and cyclones. Pakistan was hit in the year 2010 by the worst floods in its history, with 84 out of 121 districts affected. The record-breaking weather is becoming more common as the climate shifts. This climate change has caused unexpected weather pattern in Pakistan as well. Sudden rainfall during the month of March caused tension among farmers because of adverse effects on crop production.

The Earth’s air, water and land are all link together. This means a change in one place can lead to other changes somewhere else. For example, when air temperatures rise, the oceans absorb more heat from the atmosphere and become warmer. Warmer oceans, in turn, can cause stronger storms. Scientists say, “Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment, we are very concerned that the risk of more frequent and more severe extreme weather events are increasing”.

The recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance. Global warming is causing rapid climate changes including changes to sea level, rainfall patterns, ecosystems and weather. For example, the number of record hot days in Australia has doubled since the 1960s, with the summer of 2012/2013 including the hottest summer, hottest month and hottest day on record.

National Geographic magazine warns that sea levels expected to rise between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century, and continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters). Hurricanes and other storms are likely to become stronger. Floods and droughts will become more common. Climate change could make it too hot to grow certain crops, and droughts caused by climate change could reduce the amount of water available for irrigation. For example, rainfall in Ethiopia, where droughts are already common, could decline by 10 percent over the next 50 years.

As the Earth’s temperature is increasing, plants and animals that need to live in cold places might not have an appropriate place to live. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier. Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay. He fears that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well.

Researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years. Some butterflies, foxes, and alpine plants have moved farther north or to higher, cooler areas. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites. It alters sand temperatures, which then affects the sex of hatchlings.

On the other hands, long spell of freezing weather is threatening ever-greater numbers of wild animals, birds and insects across the world. Species that depend on one another may become disharmonious. For example, plants could bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active. If the Earth keeps getting warmer, up to one-fourth of all the plants and animals on Earth could become extinct within 100 years. Every plant and animal plays a role in the ecosystem (for example, as a source of food, a predator, a pollinator, a source of shelter), so losing one species can affect many others.

Widely used pesticides have found in new research to block a part of the brain that bees use for learning, leaving some of them unable to perform the essential task of associating scents with food, thereby threatening their survival and reducing the pollination of crops and wild plants.

The Earth’s oceans are also absorbing some of the extra carbon dioxide, making them more acidic and less friendly for sea life. The rising ocean acidity makes it more difficult for marine organisms such as shrimps, oysters, or corals to form their shells – a process known as calcification. Many important animals, such as zooplankton, that forms the base of the marine food chain have calcium shells. Thus, the entire marine food web being altered – there are ‘cracks in the food chain’. (Wikipedia)

Save Forest to protect earth

Forest is important to maintain the quality of Earth. Trees keep the forest soil moist and give protection against dryness. Trees also help carry on the water cycle by returning water vapor back into the atmosphere. Trees also play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Deforestation effects negatively and drives climate change. Fewer forests mean larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere-and increased speed and severity of global warming.

Mangroves forest protects the coast against erosion due to wind, waves, and water currents and protects coral reefs, sea-grass bed and shipping lanes against siltation. They also have known to absorb pollutants. Unfortunately, rate of mangrove deforestation in Pakistan is higher than neighbouring countries. Out of the 1,050km long coastline of Pakistan, 250kms fall in Sindh and 800kms in Baluchistan. Of the eight types of mangroves found in the world, four types exist in Pakistan, mainly in Indus estuary, Miani Hor, Kalmat Khor and Jiwani areas.

The coast of Baluchistan is home to 10 percent (7,500 ha) and Sindh coast to 90 percent (160,000 ha) mangroves. According to a news report, “the indiscriminate cutting down of mangroves is fast depleting our coastal areas of the vast mangrove cover which was once among the largest mangrove forests in the world.

Pollution has also disturbed the growth of mangroves; over 75 percent of untreated sewage from Karachi dumped into the sea. Land reclamation and port development is also a big threat”.

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