Land and oceans under threat

shallow coral reef with diver
Even 1.5C of warming could devastate coral reefs | Image: GETTY IMAGES

Two major reports from the UN’s climate science body have revealed in sharp relief the extent to which humanity is ravaging Earth’s land surface and her oceans

Documents from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) warned that we must stop abusing the land if catastrophic climate change is to be avoided.

The report outlined how our actions were degrading soils, expanding deserts, flattening forests and driving other species to the brink of extinction. Scientists involved in the UN process also explained that switching to a plant-based diet could help combat climate change.

“The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions and it’s our fault.”

Co-ordinating lead author Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso

The second report, dealing with the world’s oceans and frozen regions, detailed how waters are rising, ice is melting and species are being forced to move. The authors believe that the changes we’ve set in motion are coming back to haunt us. Sea level rise will have profound consequences for low-lying coastal areas where almost 700 million people live.

He hopes that having more data will shed light on the dynamics of Arctic Ocean freshening and acidification, which could affect Arctic ecosystems and fisheries, and Arctic Ocean CO2 uptake, which could affect the climate of our entire planet.

10 facts about global warming…

  1. Global warming is the increase of Earth’s average surface temperature due to greenhouse gases that collect in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm up

2. Greenhouse gases keep heat close to the earth’s surface making it livable for humans and animals. However, global warming is happening largely due to an over-emittance of these gases and fossil fuels.

3. With the start of industry in the 1700’s, humans began emitting more fossil fuels from coal, oil, and gas to run our cars, trucks, and factories.

4. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point in the last 800,000 years.

5. Since 1870, global sea levels have risen by about 8 inches.[7]

A polar bear on a small, drifting piece of ice

6. Global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment. Glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is breaking up earlier, plant and animal ranges have shifted and trees are flowering sooner.

7. Heat waves caused by global warming present greater risk of heat-related illness and death, most frequently among people who have diabetes who are elderly or are very young.

8. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the temperature in the U.S. has increased by 2 degrees in the last 50 years and precipitation has increased by 5%.

9. Global warming puts coral reefs in danger as the ocean warms, scientist fear that coral reefs will not be able to adapt quickly enough to the resulting changing conditions, and bleaching incidents and diseases will increase.

10. The earth’s ocean temperatures are getting warmer, too—which means that tropical storms can pick up more energy. So global warming could turn a category 3 storm into a more dangerous category 4 storm. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has increased since the early 1980s, as well as the number of storms that reach categories 4 and 5.

What can I do about global warming?

Speak up! By voicing your concerns—via social media or, better yet, directly to your elected officials—you send a message that you care about the warming world. Encourage your MP to enact new laws that limit carbon emissions and require polluters to pay for the emissions they produce.

Power your home with renewable energy.
Choose a utility company that generates power from wind or solar. If that isn’t possible for you, take a look at your electric bill; many utilities now list other ways to support renewable sources on their monthly statements and websites.

Building heating and cooling are among the biggest uses of energy. You can make your space more energy efficient by sealing drafts and ensuring it’s adequately insulated.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances.
Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost way to reduce emissions. When shopping for refrigerators, washing machines, and other appliances, look for the Energy Efficiency rating.

Reduce water waste.
Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water. So take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.

Actually eat the food you buy—and make less of it meat.
If you’re wasting less food, you’re likely cutting down on energy consumption. And since livestock products are among the most resource-intensive to produce, eating meat-free meals can make a big difference, too.

Buy better bulbs.
LEDs use up to 80 percent less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs. They’re also cheaper in the long run.

Pull the plug(s).
Audio and video devices, cordless vacuums and power tools, and other electronics use energy even when they’re not charging. Don’t leave fully charged devices plugged into your home’s outlets, unplug rarely used devices or plug them into power strips and timers, and adjust your computers and monitors to automatically power down to the lowest power mode when not in use.

Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.
Smart cars, such as hybrids and fully electric vehicles, save fuel and money. Before you buy a new set of wheels, compare fuel-economy performance.

Maintain your ride.
A simple tune-up can boost miles per gallon anywhere from 4 percent to 40 percent, and a new air filter can get you a 10 percent boost.

Rethink planes, trains, and automobiles.
Choosing to live in walkable smart-growth cities and towns with quality public transportation leads to less driving, less money spent on fuel, and less pollution in the air. Less frequent flying can make a big difference, too.

Shrink your carbon profile.
You can offset the carbon you produce by purchasing carbon offsets, which represent clean power that you can add to the nation’s energy grid in place of power from fossil fuels. But not all carbon offset companies are alike. Do your homework to find the best supplier.


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