We’ve seen a lot of bad news about our planet in the past several years. Here are the seven most worrisome climate change headlines...
The News Goes From Bad to Worse
Hurricanes. Droughts. Wildfires. Floods. It seems like we can't go a week without seeing another headline about some devastating example of Mother Nature's dark side. In fact, in 2012 alone, 3,257 monthly weather records for heat, rain, and snow in the U.S were shattered. Such extreme weather is very costly—both in terms of dollars and in terms of human lives. Up to $188 billion in damage was caused by the severe weather events of 2011 and 2012, and 1,107 fatalities resulted from 25 such events. And scientists are increasingly sounding the alarm that cliamte change and global warming are amplifying and exacerbating such events. Here are seven of the most shocking weather headlines since An Inconvenient Truth hit theaters in 2006...
Wired.com—March 2, 2012
Commercial fishermen and other mariners in Homer, Alaska, form an “SOS” in 2009 to raise awareness about ocean acidification caused by fossil fuels. Lou Dematteis/Reuters
Often labeled as global warming’s evil twin, ocean acidification occurs when the increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere lowers the ocean’s pH. According to a paper released by Science, about one-third of the CO2 emitted by humans since the start of the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the ocean.
Why is this a problem? Well, about 252 million years ago, ocean acidification caused a mass extinction of somewhere around 96 percent of all marine species. And the rate of CO2 released into the atmosphere was about 10 to 100 times slower than current rates. If our current rate continues, we could potentially see changes that are unparalleled in the last 300 million years of Earth’s history.
ABC News Australia—March 14, 2012
Theo Heimann/AFP/Getty Images
In their annual State of the Climate report released in March 2012, Australian researchers indicated that annual daily maximum temperatures increased dramatically since 1910. Dr. Karl Berganza of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology had expressed concern at the alarming pace of climate change. He added, “In the geological history of the earth, global changes of this magnitude happen very rarely. We have no evidence going back 800,000 years of CO2 levels above 300 parts per million.”
Fast forward a year later and the world saw CO2 levels hit a record-shattering 400 parts per million in April 2013.
The Guardian—March 7, 2012
Sue Flood/Getty Images
They’re one of Africa’s iconic resident beasts. But scientists say they could soon die off, and you’ve got climate change to thank for their demise. According to a study conducted by the Kenya Wildlife Service and the National Museum of Kenya, warmer temperatures have caused abnormal coils to develop in the cheetah’s sperm, affecting its ability to reproduce. Throw in low sperm counts, extremely low testosterone levels, and a change in food supply, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Canada.com—Oct. 11, 2012
Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
Within 25 years from now, you won’t be able to find a polar bear anywhere on planet Earth. That’s Russian polar bear expert Nikita Ovsyannikov’s dire prediction. Ovsyannikov, who is the deputy director of Russia’s polar bear reserve on Wrangel Island, pointed out: “It is worse for the Russian polar bears than the bears in Canada or Greenland because the ice pack is retreating much faster in our waters.” The number of bears around the Chukchi Sea has dropped over the past 30 years from 4,000 to no more than 1,700.
Al-Jazeera English—April 15, 2013
This colony of Adelie penguins might have to settle for these rocky ice melt pools. According to a study from the Australian National University and the British Antarctic Survey, Antarctica is losing ice at a rate 10 times faster than 600 years ago. And although it replenishes its ice loss and tends to expand in size, the rate of melting in the region now far exceeds that which is replenished each year. The world’s last true wilderness is in danger of melting, and scientists are warning of global sea-level rise of up to six meters within one full generation.
The Telegraph—November 2, 2010
It could take the Earth 100,000 years to recover from the impacts of climate change, according to Britain’s Geological Society. The biggest potential impact: mass extinction of species caused by rapid temperature rise. Studying rock sediments from millions of years ago, geologists are able to analyze and model how increases in greenhouse gases led to temperature-change species die-off. According to Professor Jims Zachos of the University of California, future impact will be much more severe than those felt by previous warming episodes 55 million years ago.
The Telegraph—Dec 26, 2011
Veronique Durruty/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Sure, chocolate isn’t really in the same class as polar bears or ocean acidification—but we still think this is kind of a big deal! According to a study commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 50 percent of land suitable for cocoa production could be gone by 2050 because of rising temperatures. Farmers and retailers could be forced to jack up the price on cocoa beans and chocolate bars. Chocolate lovers, take note!