We are all told the effects of the dooming, inevitable climate change. The first images sparked in our minds are of a dried up, dusty ocean and a sad polar bear swimming. And when we think of these extreme examples we can easily find solace in seeing our actual world and its seemingly mild changes. The thought, “Well it’s not that bad” comes to mind when looking out your window. However, if you pay more attention, the very real and rapidly worsening changes in our world are astounding. These changes affect all aspects and categories of our environment: land, sea, and air. Ocean Acidification, Drought, and Natural Disasters are all prominent examples of the diversity of these changes, each caused by obscenely high carbon dioxide levels.
Known as “Climate Change’s equally evil twin,” The Ocean Portal Team, Ocean Acidification is causing carnage to marine life. Ocean Acidification is the continual decrease in the ocean’s pH levels, which is caused by the carbon dioxide from the air dissolving into the seawater. The carbonic acid is primarily stored in the deepest parts of the ocean, not really affecting the shallower levels, where most animals live. So where is the problem? Upwelling is a natural current that raises the deep water to the surface. This occurs when the winds along the coast, push the shallow levels away, therefore causing the deep water to replace the shallow. So, when this upwelling happens, the carbonic acid comes to the surface, where it wreaks havoc on the ecosystem. What is important to remember is that, according to NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the ocean is absorbing 1/3rd of the world’s carbon dioxide-which is roughly 22 million tons a day.
The ocean does have a process in which it can naturally balance its pH levels, called Buffering. However, there is too much carbon dioxide being absorbed, and as a result, the ocean cannot keep up in rebalancing itself. Because of this imbalance, marine life is suffering. Due to the pH levels lowering, the water is becoming more and more acidic, causing shell erosion of clams, oysters, urchins, and pteropods. These protective shells are mainly made of calcium carbonate, a normally insoluble compound. However, in the increasingly acidic water, the shells are becoming more and more soluble, causing these now unprotected animals to die in record numbers. One of these animals being Pteropods, who might seem a bit unimportant. However, because of their place on the food chain being at the very bottom, they are therefore the foundation of all other animals food supply. The Pteropods are just one example out of countless others.
A common misconception from people regarding animal habitats being destroyed, is, “Well, animals can adapt.” Yes, they can. However, they are unable to adapt as fast as their environments are changing. It is crucial to remember that these problems are not getting fixed, they are getting worse by the day, and are barely being recognized by our government. Ocean Acidification is severely, and rapidly destroying our ocean’s ecosystem. For the sake of fish’s lives, and our ocean’s health, we need to limit our carbon dioxide emissions.
Drought. A word and concept that we Southern Californians have become too comfortable hearing. Yet we often do not think about it as in-depth as we should. Sure, you should take quicker showers, and yes, you are no longer expected to have a beautiful green lawn, but what is the root of this issue? The overall problem is the increase in temperatures worldwide. Global warming describes this trend of increasing global temperatures and therefore is one of the fundamental contributors to drought. Global warming is caused by greenhouse gasses.
The most concerning of these is the infamous carbon dioxide, due to its enormous quantity, and its prolonged longevity in our atmosphere. These gases get trapped in our atmosphere, insolating, and warming the earth through the greenhouse effect. Because of this change in climate, there has been less ice production due to the warmer temperatures. So instead of snow, we receive rain. Rain has a much higher vaporization rate, meaning that it evaporates much faster than snow. Pair that with the consistently hot temperatures, and you get a water shortage. Due to the evaporation of the water in the soil, plants, such as trees, are dying in mass numbers.
According to the Center of Climate and Energy Solutions, “81 % percent of the contiguous United States was under at least abnormally dry conditions in 2012”. This is a major problem for the agriculture industry. Farmer’s crop yields dramatically decrease, which ultimately results in food prices and food shortages. Trees play a vital role in absorbing excess carbon dioxide from our air, so when they are dying in large quantities due to drought, we are losing an important ally in our war against the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Due to global warming, caused by the greenhouse effect, we are losing financial stability in the agricultural business and witnessing the death of our local wilderness.
Climate Change is not the cause of Natural Disasters. This is because Natural Disasters, like their name, are natural. However, the frequency and intensity are worsening as the temperatures of the earth are rising due to the very unnatural climate change. Under the very broad name Natural Disasters, some examples of these phenomena that are being impacted by climate change include hurricanes, wildfires, and mudslides. Hurricanes are large, revolving storms that occur in tropical ocean areas, due to the warmer waters.
According to The Guardian News, “the warmer surface water dissipates more readily into vapor, making it easier for small ocean storms to escalate into larger, more powerful systems.” This is extremely problematic when conjoined with the continuous rising ocean temperatures, which results in bigger, more powerful storms. As stated in the Earth System Research Laboratory, “In the past 24 years there have been 16 above normal hurricane seasons, the worst on record.” The aftermaths of these horrific hurricanes are devastating. Hurricane Katrina, for example, had $128 billion in damages in the United States, and 1,883 deaths. Wildfires and floods are closely connected. Large wildfires mostly occur during prolonged droughts, where dry, dead, and extremely flammable are accessible.
When these large burn areas are consequently flat and desolate, the eventual rainfall does not have anything to catch itself on, resulting in massive mudslides. Recently, in the small city of Montecito, located in Southern California, suffered from both. The 2017 Thomas Fire, burned a total of 231,700 acres, and $120 million in damages. However, the real tragedy happened soon after, when a powerful mudslide devastated the town, completely destroying $421 million dollars of property, and killing 20 people. Obviously, natural disasters were already catastrophic, but because of climate change, they have become disproportionately catastrophic for our current methods of handling them, resulting in billions of dollars of damages and fatality rates that are hard to fathom.
The whole topic of Climate Change is overwhelming. The more you research, the more you realize everything is connected to each other, and you end up figuratively walking in circles feeling hopeless. Everything but greenhouse gasses, which are mainly produced by nonrenewable energy sources, such as coal. The main greenhouse gas present, due to its quantity and staying power, is carbon dioxide. A repeated word used throughout this essay. But what is carbon dioxide? Carbon dioxide is a natural gas produced by respiration and combustion. It is a vital part of photosynthesis, and is a large part of our day to day life; we ourselves produce it. Carbon dioxide can and is used for energy, by burning fossil fuels.
By now the term “fossil fuels” is likely ingrained in most minds as an evil thing. The way we are using it, it truly is. And it is to blame for the death of fish, humans, and plants- essentially our entire ecosystem. The only reason that this is somehow still happening- and worsening, is because it is cheap. “We” are making money off it. However, at the same time, no one is. We are using up our resources while destroying the planet at the same time. There are no excuses anymore. We need to make a change. We need to stop burning fossil fuels, and drastically limit our carbon dioxide emissions, in order to save our earth, therefore saving ourselves.