4 Things Happening In Our World That Are A Direct Result Of Climate Change

by Joseph Pahlow

If you live anywhere near the East Coast, you're aware the weather this past Christmas was a bit out of season. A “White Christmas” seemed far from the T-shirt temperatures and sunny blue skies that covered a majority of the region.

Upon realizing the Earth had not accidentally skipped a season, people began to wonder why Mother Nature was acting so strange. The inevitable answer most of us came to was climate change.

Throughout history, however, the issue of climate change has brought about much more than just odd changes in temperature. Our continued polluting of Earth overtime has, unfortunately, brought about permanent changes to our planet. Ranging from extinction of animals, higher sea levels, stronger storms and massive crop failures, these transformations in our world are largely caused by humans and threaten humans the most.

Yet, many of us just shrug off the responsibility of cleaning Earth and leave it to others to make an effort. As members of Generation-Y and -Z, we are the ones responsible for carrying the torch in the effort to slow climate change. If we don't, our great grandkids likely wont have a chance to.

Regardless if you believe in climate change or not, everyone can agree we should take care of our planet. So, if this “Summer Christmas” was a wake-up call for you like it was for me, here are the four major threats to our planet caused by climate change, and what you can do to help fix them:

1. Disappearance Of Coral Reefs

Over 70 percent of our Earth's surface is made up of water. Within the oceans live an estimated of one to 10 million marine species, with one-third of them being coral reef species. Coral reefs make up for a large portion of the ocean floor and account for one of the largest and most important ecosystems.

Due to the rising temperature of ocean waters, however, they might be the first ecosystem to become inexistent. According to a study conducted by the World Wildlife Foundation,

[I]n a worst case scenario, coral populations will collapse by 2100 due to increased temperatures and ocean acidification. The 'bleaching' of corals from small but prolonged rises in sea temperature is a severe danger for ocean ecosystems, and many other species in the oceans rely on coral reefs for their survival.

In short, these reefs are an underwater housing development, providing shelter and protection to fish for nearly their whole lives. So, by destroying the coral reefs, we are stranding millions of marine species and setting them up for extinction.

What we're doing wrong

Carbon dioxide emissions from electricity accounts for 37 percent of CO2 emissions in the US.

This is due to our large amount of electronically powered gadgets, and our minimal amount of alternative energy sources to fuel them. Keep in mind CO2 makes up for 65 percent of the harmful greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

How we can help fix it

The more greenhouse gasses, the faster the process of climate change becomes. And the faster the process, the warmer the water, and the quicker these reefs disappear.

Eliminate waste by properly recycling materials, and donate to global initiatives dedicated to the preservation of our oceans.

2. Stronger And More Lethal Storms

The movies filled with horrors of tsunamis, devastating hurricanes and city-collapsing earthquakes are not far from reality. The 2011 tsunami nearly destroyed an incredible amount Japan's infrastructure, and to this day, the country is the victim of progressively worse earthquakes annually. Let's also not forget the infamous Hurricane Katrina, which is is regarded the worst natural disaster in our nation's history.

These events must not be forgotten, as they are a reminder of the severity of climate change, and what's to come if it worsens. According to a study by Nature,

The maximum wind speeds of the strongest tropical cyclones have increased significantly since 1981. And the upward trend, thought to be driven by rising ocean temperatures, is unlikely to stop at any time soon.

What we're doing wrong

Cars, cars, cars. As our population grows, so does our demand for gasoline-fueled cars. Transportation is responsible for 27 percent of US CO2 emissions, and they are being produced way faster than we can think of ways to compensate for their effect on the environment.

The more emissions in the atmosphere, the faster climate change occurs. Electric cars are a great start, but they are rarely affordable to the middle- and lower-class populations, which make up a majority of our nation.

How we can help fix it

We need to concentrate our efforts towards alternative energy sources for fuel. Ethanol, wind power and even oxygen has been linked to making viable automobiles. Due to an overall lack of funding, however, these projects are often scratched.

Carpooling to work, utilizing public transportation, riding a bike and walking are all ways to limit car usage and can help limit our own carbon footprints.

3. Massive Crop Failures

According to Planet Save,

According to recent research, there is a 90 percent chance that three billion people worldwide will have to choose between moving their families to milder climes and going hungry due to climate change within 100 years. One of the main causes of this will be the spread of desertification, and its accompanying effects.

This will all be a result of a lack of water supplies, climate change's biggest target. As damages to ecosystems become worse, our supply of water in certain geographical areas will polarize to floods and droughts, and the periods between them will increase in time. This will force populations of people to relocate their entire lives, and parts of our world will no longer be habitable for humans.

What we're doing wrong

The fertilizers used on many food products are not only unhealthy to the land and surrounding animals, but to people as well. Over-fertilization has allowed for nitrous oxides to seep through the soil and enter local tap water streams, which eventually lead to the ocean. This raises health concerns for both humans and marine wildlife, as fertilizer runoff creates "dead zones" (places where life doesn't exist for long periods of time) in our oceans.

Despite our knowledge of this, we continue to over-fertilize daily. This is due to the privatization of the food industry. Companies like Monsanto have bought large amounts of farm land, giving them control of many aspects with how our food is produced and consumed. This allows for the mass distribution of fertilizers to farmlands all over the country.

How we can help fix it

Simply put, the biggest solution to this issue is to support local farm production. As the amount of crops grown in one season decreases, so does the need for large-scale fertilization. Local farmers are the last line between big industry food production and truly organic products.

Think twice before you disregard your local farmers market for another Stop & Shop. Yes, it may cost more to buy local, but you're doing your body and the community a huge favor in the long run.

4. Rise In Sea Levels Worldwide

Due to the melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, water is slowly being displaced all over the world. Long story short, the more water that exists, the less land that is uncovered by it.

In fact, the small nation of Maldives represents a modern-day Atlantis, and it is already looking for a new home for its people. An island country in the Indian Ocean, Maldives will eventually be completely underwater due to rising sea levels. The world is already 71 percent water, so it makes sense why this is the most important concern on any list of global warming concerns.

The only way to somewhat halt its progress is by a collective effort to change all other damage to our environment.

What we're doing wrong

Deforestation is one of the hardest issues with global warming. It's a double-edged sword because trees serve as both our number one source for everything paper and wood, but they also serve as our best natural defense against global warming.

By trapping harmful emissions, they facilitate healthy airflow and are a staple in any forest ecosystem. Our inability to find a replacement source for paper and wood products, however, has caused more deforestation, and thus, the release of all these harmful emissions into our atmosphere. This is really bad because we are now working against the natural aids to our very problem.

How we can fix it

We must find a way to slow the process of deforestation. This means we must limit our production and usage of paper products.

Hemp is a virtually perfect substitute for all (if not most) paper products, but due to the often misconstrued stigma associated with its cousin plant, cannabis (marijuana), it's been made very hard to legally produce this plant in a high enough quantity to have a positive impact.

We can also do a better job of recycling and preserving the paper products by being less careless about what we do and don't throw away. We can no longer afford to take for granted the numerous luxuries trees allow us to have in our daily lives.

Change is a mindset that we must first collectively agree on. This means understanding opposing viewpoints, even if they are irrational, as the goal should be to compromise to a point where everyone acts to care for the planet positively.

Our generation needs to be aware of the state of climate change and our responsibility to continue positive action toward combating it. Every single little effort adds up.

I don't expect myself or any of my friends to march on Washington with peace logos and pot demanding a cleaner Earth. All of us can, however, easily remember to turn off our lights and faucets, use fluorescent light bulbs, buy local farm produce and drink out of reusable water bottles.

These aren't hard tasks for anyone to accomplish in any way shape or form. Little efforts added up can create a big result.

NASA recently launched a satellite to monitor climate change from the outside looking in. All over the globe, there are initiatives — from the community to governmental level — all looking to make an effective change. But, we must keep spreading awareness.

If we can effect a positive environmental change in our lifestyles, we can serve as a new model for future generations to come. Awareness and action are keys that our generation will hopefully use to unlock a cleaner and more sustainable future.