Scientists are warning that a domino-like cascading events such as melting ice and warming seas as well as shifting currents and dying forests could precipitate the earth into a “hothouse” state. If we pass a certain point efforts to reduce our emissions will be futile.
This possible future was outlined in a scientific journal in which 10 events that included the release of methane gases stocked in the Arctic as well as the impact of melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic were studied. It seems that keeping the planet below 2 C above pre-industrials levels may not be enough.
Experts on feedback loops stress that new loops are being discovered about the climate and how all its components can be affected. For example, an increase in rainfall is making it harder for forests soil to trap greenhouse gases such as methane. These loops could push the earth towards more extreme scenarios for the future.
Naturally feedback loops and points of no return are hard to prove. In fact, we may not know we are there until we are experiencing it. So far the global average temperatures have reached 1C above pre-industrials levels. Even if we stick to the Paris accords of under 2C we may still see the global climate go haywire. That would be a nasty surprise.
In a recent study done by scientists it was discovered that fish are slowly losing their ability to detect different smells in the water. As carbon dioxide rises in water the ability of fish to smell chemicals suspended in it decreases, especially by the end of the century when levels will be much higher.
Fish need this sense of smell if the visibility in the water is diminished and a small decrease in their ability to smell could affect their behavior. If one doubles the amount of carbon dioxide in the water the fish have to be 42% closer to the odor source. This would make it harder to detect food or predators nearby.
The behavior of the fish also changed as they swam less and sometimes did not move for more than five seconds at a time. It is unclear if fishes could adapt as rapidly as needed as these changes occur in the nose and the brain. It is possible that longer-lived species might have more time to adapt than shorter-lived species. Only time will tell and more studies.
It is also possible that because the oceans will become more acidic this could affect reproduction in the fish. Since the Industrial Revolution surface ocean waters are 30% more acidic than before. The clear solution is therefore to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the air as much as possible. There is still time to act.
One little known aspect of climate change could be the rise of suicides as the temperature keeps climbing. In India, climate change has been linked to 60,000 suicides in the past 30 years. Researchers believe that the impact of climate change on mental health will be as important as economic recessions.
The links between mental health and global warming have not been well researched so far, but a new work has analyzed temperatures and suicides across the United States and Mexico. This new study found that suicide rates rose by 0.7% in the United States and by 2.1% in Mexico when the average monthly temperatures rose by 1 degree Celsius.
This study was adjusted for various seasonal variations, levels of poverty and even news of celebrity suicides. Scientists also found that hotter periods resulted in more suicides irrespective of wealth and the climate of the area.
The study does not prove a causal link between rising temperatures and more suicides, but the results show consistently the link over time and in many different places. The study also looked at Twitter messages and found that the use of depressive words increased as the temperatures rose. This suggest that mental wellbeing deteriorates with warmer temperatures. Levels of violence also increase when temperatures increase.
According to the study, if carbon emissions are not cut it is estimated that between 9,000 and 40,000 additional suicides could be expected by 2050 in the United States and Canada. Another good reason to tackle climate change.
The law that has successfully protected the bald eagle and the Yellowstone grizzly bear from possible extinction will be changed, and probably it will not be for the good of the natural world. Republicans want to make it less cumbersome so that it does not restrict economic development. In other words, let us not make the status of a species determine if economic development will occur in a particular area or not.
The proposed revisions would make it easier to build roads, pipelines and other big projects. One change would involve the act of considering economic factors to decide if a species is to be protected or not. It would therefore now be considered. Presumably if the economic aspects of a project are significant then no species could stand in its way.
The proposal would also restrict the category of “threatened”, which is one level beneath the most serious one, “endangered.” Of course, by putting a species in the threatened category one is able to have more individuals to save rather than wait till it is endangered. By then it might not be able to come back from the brink. Another proposal would also include a new definition of the term ”foreseeable” future. This would give the government more leeway to discount future effects of global warming.
Of course these moves fit a pattern of the Trump administration of loosening the laws that govern commerce and the environment. Republicans have long argued against laws that moderate and contain such development. Naturally these same laws which protect species and the environment also protect humans from wrecking the natural world in which we live in.
Naturally the oil and gas industry has praised the proposed changes, arguing that the focus should be on species recovery and not controlling lands in the West. One should not be surprised by that.
Despite the United States pulling out of the Paris treaty on climate change some states are still chugging along and achieving notable results. Witness the state of California which has seen its gas emissions fall below 1990 levels years ahead of the schedule that was self-imposed.
Since 2004 pollution levels were down 13% but the economy grew 26% since then. This gives the lie to Republicans who say that fighting climate change will mean losing jobs and a bad economy. How did California achieve those results? By an increased use of renewable power. In 2016 alone solar power has jumped 33% and imports of hydro power shot up 39%.
Reaching the 2030 targets will be more challenging, and for that to happen the transportation industry will have to continue to sell more efficient vehicles and use cleaner fuels. But because of tough tailpipe standards that exceed federal standards the state has a head start in reaching these targets, despite a hostile Trump administration.
According to a new study, 800 million people living in South Asia could experience sharply diminishing living conditions if greenhouse gases are not reduced significantly. This area of the world is already one of the poorest and one of the hungriest regions.
It seems that unchecked climate change will amplify the hardships of poverty in already poor regions. These hot spots of deterioration are also home to development challenges such as limited access to markets and poor road connections.
For some cities like Karachi, Pakistan higher temperatures are forecast to lower labor productivity and worsen public health while in India farmers will be more stressed as hotter days and increase rainfall are expected.
The study also shows that some of the hottest regions are getting hotter. It also shows that if no change is done to reduce global emissions then 800 million will be affected but if emissions are reduced then the number falls to 375 million people. In either case, poor people will suffer even more than now.
We are habituated to read horror stories about third-world countries and how the environment is always last on the list of importance. But in Pakistan, things are changing, with officials now realizing the importance of trees. The forest cover in Pakistan is 5.2% of the total territory, well short of the 12% that is recommended by the United Nations.
To fight deforestation millions of trees have been planted in the north-east of Pakistan. More than 900,000 eucalyptus trees have also been planted in that area. These trees also control erosion and limit the effects of flooding. These eucalyptus trees will be cut in a few years time, enriching the people in the area before more are planted again. If in some areas Pakistan is becoming green again in others it is more dire. The river Sindh has seen 60% of its forests near the river disappear in 60 years, a consequence of logging and aridity..
What is more interesting is that the federal government and the provincial governments are challenging each other in making Pakistan more green. A welcome change in a country where people vote usually for more infrastructures than more trees.