A conference was recently held in Germany discussing the plight of island nations and climate change. Islands nations are the most vulnerable countries to global warming, essentially from rising seas and the loss of fresh water. Hopes that their plight at the German conference would take center-stage did not happen.
As climate change increases it will also increase the power of hurricanes and this summer Caribbean island nations have been pummeled. Barbuda has been hit as well as Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. These have still to recover.
Small islands believe that the industrialized world who are largely responsible for climate change owe some money to offset the disasters that will affect island nations in the future. They argue that as small island nations they are a small contributor to the problem, less than 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2010 wealthy countries set up the Green Climate Fund to compensate nations more vulnerable to climate change but the fund has been slow to start. The Maldives were one of the first to apply and yet it waited two years to get some money.
Other island nations, seeing the slowness of the process, have decided to go another route, that of the debt swap program. In the Seychelles for example, investors have decided to restructure a 30 million dollar debt if the country agrees to protect 30% of its ocean habitat. Money would be spent in protecting coral reefs that can shield the island from storm surges. Most now believe that too much bureaucracy is a major problem and that perhaps island nations should deal one on one with smaller groups or organization. At least it would be quicker.
Because of global warming the city is more vulnerable than ever to flooding, and this despite spending billions of dollars on an underground system supposed to control those flood waters.
In the past three decades rainfall that measures more than two inches an hour has increased 30%. It seems that global warming is to blame for these intense rains in a country that is already among one of the wettest in the world.
On top of this, rising oceans makes the Tokyo area vunerable to storm surges and yet people and industries still want to settle near the waterfront. Pumping groundwater as also led parts of the city to sink by almost 15 feet in the past 100 years, thereby increasing the risk of these storm surges.
If one adds increased rainfall with the potential for destructive earthquakes and tsunamis, Tokyo is one of the riskiest city to live in. And the risk will not diminish in the future. Add to these woes the fact that the government is now heavily in debt and has an aging population one can see the financial challenges in making Tokyo secure, now and in the future.
It now seems according to a recent study that due to global warming the size of fish could decrease by 30% in just 30 years. It seems that for every degree of ocean temperature above the norm the size of fishes drop by 30%.
As fish are cold-blooded they cannot regulate their body temperature which increases if the water they swim in increases as well. At some point, it affects size as metabolic processes in the fish speed up to increase oxygen requirements. The fish then cannot breath properly and this decreases the size of the fish. Already this trend is being seen in the North Sea.
The warming of the oceans is presently seen as some fish migrate to colder areas for oxygen-richer waters. The tropics are losing fish due to that. Other species cannot move and therefore will simply stay put but will shrink in size. So along with over fishing we now will have fish displacement and smaller size fish to contend to in the future. Considering that a good proportion of humanity depends on fish as their main food this decrease in the size of fish will have serious consequences.
Scientists in the U.K have just determined that an increase in sunshine in the past 20 years is having an effect on the ice melt in Greenland. This could literally affect millions of people worldwide. If the Greenland ice sheet melted we could see global sea levels rise by 6 meters.
It has been estimated that 25 per cent of global sea level rise can be attributed to the melting of the ice sheet on Greenland. Since 1995 Greenland has lost about 4.000 gigatons of ice.
Scientists believe that as the Arctic is warming faster, it is affecting the weather over Greenland. There are less clouds and more clear skies in now. This increase in sunlight explains about two-thirds of the ice melt in Greenland since the 1990’s. Since 2003 ice loss has nearly doubled.
No doubt that things could simply go on towards the day when the ice sheet in Greenland is no more, and millions of people who live by the shore will be severely affected. Just slowing the rate of melt will be difficult. Perhaps we should prepare people for what seems inevitable, a global rise in sea levels in the next 25 years that could be catastrophic.
It has been known for some time that carbon dioxide that is released in the atmosphere by man will have an effect on plants. But how great the effect and how they would be affected by global warming was unclear. Until now.
By looking at one chemical in the air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice scientists now know the effect on the growth of plants, and it is stupendous. Plants have been growing at a rate faster than at any other time in the past 54,000 years. They have been converting 31% more carbon dioxide into organic matter than before the Industrial Revolution.
Sine 1840 carbon dioxide has increased 40%. Scientists had always wondered how all those gases were affecting plant growth. They knew that there would be an effect but to quantify it was hard. And then they discovered that by concentrating on one compound called carbonyl sulphide they would be able to have a hard measurement. Plants draw in this compound and then destroy it. Only in Antarctica is the air so well mixed that the growth worldwide of plants is reflected.
What is incredible is that the pace of change in photosynthesis has increased by 136 times what it was in the past. As the plants take in this extra carbon dioxide they are cooling the planet. The problem is that current models show that at a certain point plants will not be able to absorb all this extra carbon. According to scientists we may see plants continue on this path for another fifty years but after that they will hit a plateau and they will no longer buffer us from the effects of global warming. Let us hope that we will have reduced the rate at which the earth is warming by then. And no, plants will not save us from climate change but they sure are giving us a helping hand in fighting it.