Despite what you may hear or read, the effects and consequences of global warming are very real and not just a figment of imagination. However, there are many folks out there, who would rather bury their heads in the sand and hope that the problem will go away by itself.
Rising Sea Levels
Up until the end of the nineteenth century, sea levels remained virtually constant. After that however, ocean levels started to rise at a steady rate of around 0.1 mm each year. Since 1992, that rate has increased to around 3 mm per year. The reasons behind this are a result of gradual melting and movement of ice at the polar caps causing more water to flow into the oceans.
The reason that the ice caps are melting is down to a steady rise in the average temperature of the earth. When compared with the average recorded temperatures through the 1950s to the 1980s, there has been a steady rise in the Earth’s average temperature of 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this may not seem a lot, this is not a small number and is the result of temperature rises averaged out over thousands of different sites.
As the northern regions cool, their ability to help maintain the temperature of the rest of the world reduces which in turn makes global warming a self-perpetuating problem. If we do not collectively take proactive steps to stop or at least slow the effects of global warming, the likelihood is that it could very well take on a life of its own, and we will be powerless to do anything about it.
The average increase of the world’s temperature from the effects of global warming has heated the world’s oceans, particularly the Atlantic. This in turn reduces the amount of deadly carbon dioxide that the water can absorb. A report from the BBC claims that this has already raised the acidity level of the oceans to a degree that is irreversible in our lifetime.
Glacial retreat, another of the effects of global warming, does not just affect the water levels of the ocean either. While the glaciers at the poles melt, so do other important glaciers, such as the Hindu Kush (a mountain range situated between eastern/central Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan). During the dry season in such regions, the slow glacial melt has always been a dependable water source that renewed itself during the cold seasons. However, as the temperature of the earth rises, these sources of water have started to recede entirely. When they disappear, many of the most heavily populated areas on earth will have lost a primary source of water.
Temperature increases have also ensured a steady rise in forest fires, which are assuredly self-perpetuating effects of global warming. Trees burn, releasing hundreds of year’s worth of carbon back into the atmosphere which in turn helps increase the world temperature, causing more fires.
As well as the negative environmental impacts, there are also economic consequences that cannot be simply ignored. Global warming is leading to a massive decline in edible crops, drinkable water, and a huge increase in natural disasters. One of the first industries to take a significant hit has been the Insurance industry, as floods, hurricanes, and fires have all increased.
The cost of building flood defenses at coastal cities will rise, likely increasing the cost of imports altogether. We have already discovered what a lack of good flood defenses can do, unless of course New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina taught us nothing. Areas where flood defenses are not economically viable will have to be evacuated, and this will lead to greater issues with population compaction.
The effects and consequences of global warming are neither scientific bunk nor some tree-hugging fad. It is a serious problem that the global community needs to correct, sooner rather than later, otherwise our children and grandchildren will likely suffer the consequences of our inaction.