Tag: Climate Change

The Ocean Is Warming Faster Than Ever and There Is No Denying It

by Sudhit Rao

Water is an integral part of life on Earth and as global warming becomes more prominent, the Earth’s oceans are taking a huge hit. Studies conducted at the end of 2019 concluded that the oceans are now warmer than ever before. This could prove deadly to marine life which in turn would affect the marine ecosystem. 

Scientists estimate that the ocean is about 0.075 degrees Celsius(~0.135 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average ocean temperature from 1981 to 2010. Many might think that a 0.075-degree increase is negligible, especially over a couple of decades, but scientists conclude that this increase in temperature is similar to the heat of 5 atomic bombs expelled into the ocean every second. This can be accredited to the immense volume of the ocean, as the oceans combined have a volume of 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (~320 million cubic miles). To increase the temperature by a figure smaller than a tenth of a degree, it would take 228 sextillion Joules of heat. That is 228 followed by 21 zeros! The total number of Hiroshima explosions it would take to reach that number is 3.6 billion. To put that number in perspective, it would take 28,000 years for 7.1 billion people (the world’s population) to utter one sextillion words. 

Ocean warming threatens the life of marine animals and has enormous impacts on the marine ecosystem. For example, coral reefs experience coral bleaching, where the corals expel the surrounding algae, causing the corals to turn white. This adds a lot of stress to the corals, which in turn increases the mortality rate. Other marine life such as fish, seabirds, and marine mammals experience mass migration due to the warm waters and their search for more favorable breeding areas. 

The recent increase in the ocean’s temperature has been proven deadly to the environment and the lives of marine animals. The true scale to which the ocean has warmed up is immense and reversing this effect is key in saving marine life and the underwater ecosystem. 

Amazon Mogul Jeff Bezos Silently Creates New Company to Fight Climate Change

by Daanyal Raja

Jeff Bezos, the current CEO of Amazon and its original founder, recently created a new company to implement his $10 billion pledge to fight climate change and global warming. The Amazon founder started Fellowship Ventures LLC, a limited liability company that applied for a trademark, with Bezos’ signature, for the “Bezos Earth Fund” in July.

Fellowship Ventures LLC is the largest and most significant philanthropic act by Bezos, who is currently the world’s richest man. However, ever since Bezos announced the pledge in mid-February, few details have been released to journalists and the public. In this case, details are extremely important, as they would answer questions ranging from over how much time Bezos will give the money to how it will be used. 

Furthermore, if Bezos does use Fellowship Ventures LLC to fulfill his pledge, transparency would be greatly limited since LLCs aren’t required to file tax documents that are available to the public. The LLC could also end up owning the “Bezos Earth Fund” name and have the donations go through a more transparent and structured method, such as a traditional philanthropic foundation.

Either way, Bezos and his team aren’t giving us any details for now. The Amazon founder did say he would begin making grants to climate change organizations and groups this summer, but we have yet to see anything. When Recode approached Amazon, the technology giant declined to comment on the Fellowship Ventures LLC. Moreover, the trademark for Fellowship Ventures was filed in Jamaica first, a tactic that is sometimes used by companies to prevent others from gaining information about their plans, according to trademark experts.

Billionaires, especially people like Jeff Bezos, who is worth almost $200 billion, have the potential to rid the world of many problems ranging from homelessness, world hunger, and climate change. Once people like Bezos donate and strive to make a progressive change that benefits us all, our planet will become a much better place. The actions of a few wealthy individuals have the ability to change the world for all of us, the least we can do is encourage them to do the right thing.

Agriculture Is New Primary Source of Sulfur In USA Environment, Passing Fossil Fuels

by Arun

New studies are showing that agriculture – specifically pesticide applications to croplands – have the highest output of sulfur to the environment, beating fossil fuels. The study now shows farmers, who have long been protected in the fight against climate change, may actually be contributing negatively to the cause.

How does Sulfur affect the environment?

Surprisingly, much is not known regarding the effects that sulfur has on the environment. The study of these topics is often overlooked in favor of carbon dioxide, methane, or mercury, though increasing sulfur pollution at agricultural mainlands is warranting a continuation regarding the understanding of the effects of sulfur pollution. However, scientists hypothesize that an increase in sulfur levels can correlate with increased levels of mercury in wetlands, soil degradation, and higher risks of asthma for residents in these areas. In addition, the sulfur in the air can react with the native oxygen and form sulfur dioxide, an often studied substance, which has proven to have negative impacts on the respiratory system, including lung function (asthma, pulmonary edema, and chest tightness).

Regardless of the negative implications, it is important to still consider the necessity of sulfur in the environment. In moderation, sulfur is an important plant nutrient that helps with the uptake of nitrogen and assists with the creation of fertilizer and pesticides. Sulfur also plays a key role in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, both in developing and maintaining the health of the ecosystem. The key is moderation– with excess levels, however, the consequences are currently unforeseen.

For the past hundred years, coal-fired plants have been the primary source of sulfur emissions, leading to acid rain and the degradation of forests and the aquatic ecosystem in the late 1900s. After scientific research into the topic, the Clean Air Act was passed to mitigate the emissions to the pre-industrial levels. However, this new uptick in sulfur emissions from agriculture is puzzling scientists as they scramble to study the long-term risks for this increase in pollution.

With the implications currently unknown, it is imperative that research on the effects of excess sulfur in the environment is continued and synthesized to a measurable conclusion. As the necessity of agriculture increases and farmers are stretched, it is inevitable that the use of pesticides will continue, ultimately increasing agriculture’s sulfur footprint. With a lot currently up in the air, only time – and research – will tell what the potential short-term and long-term consequences of this pollution will be.

Climate Change Increases Thawing of Frozen Peatlands

by Saarang Kashyap

Right now, huge amounts of carbon are stored in boggy, often frozen regions stretching across the northern parts of the world. Over many millennia, these regions, commonly referred to as peatlands, have played a key role in cooling the global climate. As the world progressively warms up however, thawing of permafrost and the peat inside it is expected to release huge amounts of CO2, leading to devastating consequences on the climate.

As stated in UnEnvironment, “peatlands are characterized by a thick layer of dead plant remains, or peat. The water-saturated, oxygen-free, and permafrost conditions prevent peat from full decay and allow it to accumulate over thousands of years. The intricate relationships between peat, vegetation, water, and ice maintain the delicate balance of permafrost peatlands.” It’s estimated that the northern hemisphere’s frozen soils and peatlands hold about 1,700 billion tons of carbon, four times more than humans have emitted since the industrial revolution, and twice as much currently present in the atmosphere.

Using data compiled from more than 7,000 field observations, the authors of a new study were able to generate the most accurate maps to date of the peatlands, their depth, and the amount of warming gas they contain. They show that the boggy terrain covers 3.7 million sq kilometers (1.42 million sq miles). The researchers say the northern peatlands store around 415 gigatonnes of carbon. That’s roughly equivalent to 46 years of current global CO2 emissions.

What has contributed to the breakdown of peatlands? Climate Breakdown is not the only factor directly influencing the changes in permafrost peatlands. Any disturbance to the surface soil can lead to permafrost degradation, including natural processes such as forest or tundra fires, and human activity, such as industrial and urban infrastructure development as well as mining, tourism, and agriculture. The removal of trees and shrubs leads to more solar heat input, permafrost collapse, and wetter conditions. Open water accumulates summer heat and acts as a heat source in winter, affecting the distribution of permafrost.

Even though the situation looks grim, scientists believe in the restoration of the bogs through investment efforts. Experts also mention that as frozen peat thaws out,  it starts to become capable of growing plants and storing warming gases.

Forests Can Migrate — But Can’t Outrun Climate Change

by Anshul Dash

Many animals are known for their migration patterns, from birds to butterflies and wildebeest. However, most people don’t know that trees migrate as well. Science writer Zach St. George has studied the movement of whole forests and published his work in his new book The Journey of Trees. He has stated that forests move as “old trees die and new ones sprout up.”

According to St. George, forests migrate when multiple trees sprout in the same direction. He says that scientists can track the movement of trees through ancient fossils left behind by old forests. There is also evidence that forests follow the same route back and forth, like most whales and birds that migrate. Although forests send out seeds in all the directions, it is the seeds in the north that thrive the most. This causes forests to move northward over time.

The migration of forests has been happening for millions of years. Scientists have deduced that climate change is the reason behind these migrations. However, the rate of climate change is increasing by the minute, and the forests can’t seem to keep up the pace. For example, the climate in California is becoming hotter and drier. Because of this, Joshua Tree National Park may not be able to sustain Joshua trees in the long run. A similar threat is being posed in Sequoia National Park due to the recent California drought. 

In order to combat this problem, scientists have come up with “assisted migration” — people planting trees in areas where they’re likely to thrive. However, it isn’t the best solution since people can accidentally introduce insects, new plants, and other diseases that can potentially wipe out these tree populations. Because of this, there’s a huge debate between scientists and conservationists as to whether or not humans should assist in forest migration. 

St. George has new hopes for the migration of forests after publishing his new book. He said that climate change will cause dramatic changes to forests, stating that some of them could be lost because of climate change. Through publishing his book, St. George hopes to raise awareness regarding the current condition of forests worldwide, and he hopes that people will take action to combat climate change.

Polar Bears Could Go Extinct By the End of the Century

by Anshul Dash

According to a study, polar bears could be wiped out by the end of the century if action isn’t taken to combat climate change. As arctic ice continues to shrink, scientists claim that polar bears in that region have reached their survival limit. Polar bears rely on the ice to hunt for their main prey, seals. However, as the ice sheets continue to melt and give in, polar bears are forced to go long distances and stay on the shore, thus struggling to catch prey and feed their cubs.

Polar bears are now currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), with climate change listed as a key factor in their decline. Nature Climate Change published a study that describes a timeline of how climate change will cause the polar bear population to shrink. The researchers were able to determine the current endurance level of polar bears based on the relationship between climate change rates and mortality rates. According to Polar Bears International lead scientist Steven Armstrup, “What we’ve shown is that, first, we’ll lose the survival of cubs, so cubs will be born but the females won’t have enough body fat to produce milk to bring them along through the ice-free season. Any of us know that we can only go without food for so long. That’s a biological reality for all species.”

In addition to calculating endurance level, the researchers also calculated when certain thresholds would be met in different regions of the Arctic. It is highly likely that almost all of the polar bear population will be wiped out by the end of the century due to high greenhouse gas emissions. The findings, however, show that few polar bear populations in the north could survive past 2100 since the effects of climate change there are less. Sea ice in the Arctic has been decreasing at a rate of 13% since the 1970s. That means that by 2100, there will be very little sea ice for polar bears to roam on. It is important to contribute to the fight against climate change to make sure that these magnificent animals do not go extinct.

Due to Rising Temperatures, Summer Could Cause Heat Stress

by Anshul Dash

Global warming is having a huge effect on how the 4 climate seasons behave. Due to rising temperatures, summer can cause temperatures to reach a record high. Because of this, people outside may suffer from heat stress — a serious condition that causes body organs to shut down. 

People who are vulnerable to heat stress tend to be those whose jobs involve a lot of work outdoors. Such jobs include farming and construction. Overheating is especially bad for doctors working during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Jimmy Lee, “overheating can slow down our ability to do something that’s vital for medical staff – make quick decisions.” Doctors may also ignore ongoing symptoms of heat stress, causing them to collapse while working.

Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to cool down properly. Body temperatures rise to dangerous levels and damage organs, causing them to shut down. Heat stress typically happens in hot, humid places because evaporation of sweat cannot take place in humid environments. COVID-19 doctors wear special suits that protect them from the virus but prevent sweat from evaporating. As a result, many COVID-19 doctors are vulnerable to heat stress. 

The effects of climate change make heat stress more likely to happen. Increasing global temperatures cause more intense humidity, which is detrimental because more people are exposed to deadly combinations of heat and moisture for a longer amount of time, thus making them vulnerable to heat stress. According to UK Met Office Professor Richard Betts, “millions of people already work in the challenging combination of extreme heat and high humidity.” According to another published study, heat stress could affect 1.2 billion people worldwide by 2100, which is four times the amount of people affected now.

Fortunately, heat stress is avoidable. Hydration is the key to avoiding heat stress. Workers need to drink plenty of fluids before starting their work, and they should take regular breaks where they drink water and take rest. However, Dr. Lee has stated that he and his fellow COVID-19 doctors have a hard time taking breaks in between because “going for rests involves the laborious process of changing out of PPE and then back into a new set of equipment.” Another key to avoiding heat stress is being fit. Through being fit, heat tolerance is high, which serves as a sort of immunity to heat stress. Through proper aerobic exercises and staying hydrated, most people won’t suffer from heat stress.

Denmark Making Efforts To Force Government To Act On Climate Change Initiatives

by Seth Berger

Denmark has recently passed a climate law that addresses many of the shortcomings of previous climate change legislation. This law is written in a way that makes the Danish government responsible for its environmental decisions on an annual basis, meaning that it will be essentially illegal to avoid legitimate climate change efforts. Although this is only true in theory, the climate law in Denmark is more powerful than its predecessors due to several unique qualities it possesses.

The first reason that this law holds much potential is its resilience to change; the fact that it has a long-lasting solution. One common issue with climate change initiatives is that while governments do set up goals they have to improve their carbon footprint, oftentimes they are not legally held accountable for that to actually come into realization. In this regard, the Danish law has a very viable solution. The Danish government will require a majority of parliamentary approval every year, making it theoretically possible to remove the government should they not follow through. This does create the possibility that a worse government could take its place. However, cross-party support for improvements in climate change mitigate this risk.

In addition, Denmark is making a strong push to look at their environmental impact when making decisions. Often, many countries, including Denmark, make decisions that contradict their environmental efforts. By looking at it from a “green lens,” it is the hope of many climate change advocates that these contradictions are reduced. Denmark is also guilty of making contradictory decisions with regards to the importations that they have. In order to combat this issue, Denmark is incorporating climate change into their trade policies and foreign aid. They are also planning on sharing their green technologies in the hopes that it will have an effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in other countries.

Ultimately, Denmark’s push in climate change initiatives could serve as a catalyst for neighboring countries to incorporate similar laws. Although there is certainly more that can be done, it is the hope of many that Denmark’s efforts could be the beginning of much more to come.

Siberian Wildfires Dominate Landscape due to Climate-Change-Driven Wildfires

by Saarang Kashyap

A prolonged heatwave in Russia’s Siberia has caused the number of wildfires to erupt by fivefold over the last week. Russia’s forest service said there were nearly 300 wildfires blazing across the vast country’s northern wilderness on Saturday, as it attempted to contain them with methods including explosives and cloud seeding.

Freakishly warm weather, across large swathes of Siberia since January, combined with low soil moisture, have contributed to a resurgence of wildfires that devastated the region last summer, the European Union’s climate monitoring network said this week. In April, many parts of Asia, including Siberia, experienced record heat, which led to wildfires in Russia’s northernmost region. Experts are concerned about the early start of this year’s fire season in Siberia, especially after the mass devastation caused by the 2019 Siberian wildfires.

The Mongabay states that “In Siberia, the high temperatures gave way to wildfires. On April 27, a satellite system operated by NASA captured an image of red flames and smoke blowing through at least nine regions near Kemerovo and Novosibirsk in Siberia.” Other regions, like Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan, have reached 35.1°C (95.2°F), while at Ayding Lake, China, the temperature peaked at 43.5°C (110.3°F). 

The fires may be happening in remote regions of Siberia, but the entire world will be impacted, according to Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The region is home to one of the world’s largest high-latitude forests and much of the region’s land is permafrost,” Dahl said. “Both forests and permafrost store enormous amounts of carbon. So when they burn or thaw, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, which causes further warming.

Right now, the health and well-being of people in the regions being affected need to be held at the highest priority because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because both wildfires and COVID-19 affect respiratory systems, the combined threats could present serious risks to people in the region, especially if they have underlying health conditions.

Announcement during the Paris Agreement aims to Mitigate Climate Change at Domestic Level

by Seth Berger

Recently, an announcement was made during the Paris Agreement declaring the renovation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). This decision was made in order to minimize the impact of climate change and to decrease greenhouse gas emissions at a domestic level. In addition, many countries have been urged to edit and update their plans every 5 years going forward, as a means of realistically reaching the goals that they have established.

With this, the concept of nature based solutions has received more and more recognition as of late. While often dismissed due to the varying amount of resilience it provides, policymakers are increasingly being brought aware of its possible effectiveness. For example, nature based solutions could be implemented in the wetlands, which is beneficial for both the people and the environment. The wetlands are commonly called a “triple win”, due to the fact that by saving mangroves and marshes, there are the additional benefits of resistance to storms / rising sea levels as well as its capabilities in storing carbon in the soil.

Another key factor in this decision was the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the ocean. It has been long known that the ocean plays a large role in shielding people from the adverse effect of climate change. However, it is not nearly as well understood the carbon benefits of marine ecosystems. Conducting research to further understanding the potential for marine habitats to mitigate and reduce emissions has been cited as one of the primary goals during the Paris Agreement.

The discussions held on marine protections are critical in moving forward research to better understand how people can support this planet, beginning with ensuring the safety and protection of the coastal wetlands.