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The impact of global warming on the environment

 

The impact of global warming on the environment

Global warming has brought about adverse effects to the environment and these effects have in turn generated much concern because they have the potential to alter biological systems. This paper describes how global warming has had a significant effect on the development and establishment of animal and plant species and the ability of global warming to change the timescales on these patterns together with its impact in the capacity of a wide variety of species to adapt to the natural environment.

Introduction

Global warming is an unavoidable situation as a result of increased levels of green house gasses such as Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), Carbon dioxide (CO2), Nitrous oxide (NO2) and Methane (CH4) in the atmosphere. These gases trap the heat radiation produced by the sun and this leads to increase in temperature in the troposphere which is the atmospheric layer responsible for life support on our planet. This situation is due to increased anthropogenic or human activities, microbial and animal activities but it is the (man-made) activities which contribute majorly to the increased levels of green house gases According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the temperature on the global surface has increased by 0.6-0.2 degrees centigrade over the last 100 years and with the current trends in green house gases production it is expected to rise further by 1.4 – 5.8 degrees centigrade in the next century. CO2 is seen as the major contributor in the increased levels of the GHGs making approximately 60% of the concentrations. CO2 emissions are attributed to man-made activities such as fossil fuel combustion and deforestation. This increase in global temperature alters the entire life support system by changing both plant and animal characteristics and behavior and how they interact with each other.

Green house gases capture the heat radiation from the sun and maintain an average global temperature of 15 degrees Centigrade in the lower most atmospheric layer, the troposphere, which supports the life of our planet. Increase in the concentrations of green house gases in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic, animal and microbial activities, creates an enhanced global green house effect in the recent time, causing Global Warming.

Effects of Global warming on:

Organisms

Global warming is expected to cause change in the life of living things. These changes in organisms will come as mutations and evolution of entire species. According to Yan and Gu the influenza A virus is undergoing evolution and this threatens the health of human beings and other hosts which may experience epidemics/pandemics caused by the virus (404). “Global warming will likely influence the life of all living species, including the evolution of influenza A viruses, which in turn threatens humans and other hosts with possible outbreaks of pandemics/epidemics of influenza”.

There is still no clear distinction as to how global warming will affect such organisms and what outcomes are expected but research will soon show the unseen effects of the Influenza A virus. Global warming is expected to improve the resilience of this type of virus and this will in-turn cause a surge in their numbers and thus bring about health consequences for humans and other hosts. The increase in temperature will cause evolution in the proteins found in the virus for adaptation to the new environment. The influenza virus adapts to global warming by developing a more complex structure of their nucleoproteins and this is expected to improve its transmission between humans and will also lead to evolution and introduction of more novel virus.

 Plant life

The global rise in temperature has seen a myriad of development which affects the different natural and climatic processes. This situation leads to adverse conditions developing in insects’ pests that affect agriculture and horticulture. The pests begin to exhibit heightened sense of longevity, herbivory and pesticide resistance. The plants suffer attacks from the growing numbers of pests and this is made worse by the destruction of phytochemical which is the plants natural defense against attacks by increase in green house gasses which increase the temperature in the plants environment. Due to the global warming plants try to adapt by producing higher levels of carbohydrates while reducing the nitrogen being produced this in-turn leads to increased herbivory in the pests and other insects striving to obtain enough nitrogen as their bodies require it to survive. This leads to more expensive mitigation measures against these pests who have developed a more resilient life span.

There is evidence of detrimental damage caused by global warming as was experienced during the Cenzoic era in the Eocene and Paleocene epochs fifty five million years ago. Increase in global temperatures led to increased insect herbivory and this affected plant life adversely. Flies have been known to mutate due to change in climate and this increases their life span as seen in warmer areas of South Australia.

Human life

The effect of global warming and climate change on the health of the human population has led to international consultations and is still a growing concern. The increase in global temperatures has seen an increase in heat related disorders and reduced productivity among workers.

Taiwan which is an island country located 120-122 degrees East and 21.5-25.2 degrees North with a population of 23 million people. It is characterized by all year round high temperatures coupled with high humidity levels. A case study of this region has shown heat related disorders and death of its workers. In the period between 2006 -2007 Taiwn recorded a total of 22 deaths connected to work under excessive heat conditions. In 2007, after 3 consecutive days of increased heat conditions as a result of temperature increase from 34- 38 degrees resulted in the death of 3 80 year old farm workers in an area south of Taiwan as they worked out doors. “In 2009 a 40 year old who begun work at noon died as a result of heatstroke. The individual was wearing full protective clothing under temperatures exceeding 33 degrees”.  These cases go to show how global warming will continue to cause damage to the human race if left unmitigated.

Most workers in hot areas such as Taiwan are considered to be among the high risk population. This is because they work under extreme heat and humid conditions which last for more than 4 consecutive months. These laborers develop long term heat related conditions which reduce their life span significantly and are at risk of heatstroke in case they are over exposed to this extreme climatic condition. Heavy physical workloads shouldered by laborers and exposure to heat producing environments such as boiler rooms in hot climatic conditions increase the risk of the worker to experience heat related conditions and also increases the chances of death.

Food markets

Global warming caused by an increase in green house gases especially carbon dioxide (CO2) will have a positive outcome when it comes to crop growth but increase in temperatures due to the increasing temperatures will reduce the crop growth period due to premature lowering, fruit bearing and reduced nourishment of the seed caused by increased respiration, in-turn causing stunted growth in the seeds. This will ultimately lead to food insecurity due to failing agriculture. Low income populations will have to rely on food markets but their purchasing power will be limited.

Conclusion

Climate change is expected to adversely affect all the four areas of food security these are: Food system stability, food accessibility, food utilization and finally food availability. This will consequently have an impact on human health, distribution channels, livelihood assets and food production as well as altering market flows and purchasing power. The outcomes of global warming are expected to be both long term due to changing precipitation patterns and increasing temperature while it short term effects will be due to occurrence of extreme weather conditions.

Populations that are already at risk of food shortages are expected to be affected by this situation earlier than the rest of the world’s population. These populations rely mostly on agricultural based incomes which are already failing due to more resilient types of pests and disease patterns, crop failure, livestock deaths and lack of quality seeds and agricultural equipment. Low income societies mostly around urban areas living in slums are expected to suffer the full effects of food shortages due to their weak purchasing power. This is attributed to poor wages, lack of proper insurance covers and loss of assets. Climate change will consequently lead to migrations which will in-turn alter the food markets. This will also lead to cross border conflicts and civil unrest due to poor food provisions. It is of prime importance to strengthen the groups at risk and this includes the rural residence that will need to be better informed and equipped with necessary skills to face the looming effects of food insecurity. This focus should be aimed at developing better agricultural practices which will in-turn lead to a reduction in green house gas emissions.

The international community has in place quick response mechanisms to respond to catastrophes in time in order to save lives but these resources are not sufficient enough to meet other needs such as recovering of livelihoods of the affected people. There is need for more research on the vulnerable areas to determine the long term effects of global warming and climate change on the particular ecosystems. This is because without this information agricultural investments are highly risky and this further exposes the people to food insecurity.

Global warming is posing a threat to humanity and all other life forms. 50 million years ago it led to extinction of a wide variety of life forms and is currently claiming lives and causing global instability on all fronts. If the world’s populations ignore the signs and avoid mitigating this problem then the future remains negatively uncertain.

Works Cited

Furuya, Kobayashi and Meyer. “ Impacts of Global Warming on the World Food Market  according to SRES Scenarios.” World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology           57 (2009): 24-29. Web. 5 April 2012.

Lin Ro-Ting and Chan Chang-Chuan. “Effects of Heat on Workers’ Health and Productivity in   Taiwan.” Global Health. (2009): 52-57. Web. 5 April 2012.

Swaminathan. “Impacts of Global Warming on the Insect Pest Status on Plants.” Indian Journal  of Science and Technology 4.3 (2011): 230-234. Web. 5 April 2012.

Yan and Wu. “Trends in Global Warming and Evolution of Nucleoproteins from Influenza A       Viruses since 1918.” Transboundary and Emerging Diseases 57 (2010): 404-413. Web. 5            April 2012.


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