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Sobering Warnings on the Global Warming Syndrome

In its epic 4.5 billion years of tumultuous existence, the planet Earth has gone through a lot of major metamorphoses such as the formation of mountains, oceans, forests, and the like, but its biggest challenge yet is coming from Homo sapiens.   The world is experiencing an unprecedented population growth of over 7 billion, depleting natural resources, destroying the forests, polluting the air and water. All of these devastations seem to define the impending demise of the world as we know it.


Of all the evils perpetrated on the planet Earth is the fact that humans are adding billions of tones of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere which is changing the rather stable climate upon which humans depended for the millennia. Based on scientific evidence, the warnings are loud and clear: the climate change means devastating floods, scorching droughts, and destructive storms that are crippling economies and killing lives.


It would be easy to dismiss the warnings of the environmentalists, but it is not just the planet is in danger if we do not deal with the consequential climate change. The human and animal population on Earth are in peril if we ignore the doom by burying our heads in the sand. It is our moral obligation to think of the future for our generations to come.


As the old adage goes, it is better to be safe than be sorry; if we do nothing now we would undoubtedly suffer the debilitating consequences of climate warming. Therefore, here are  some of the major climate warming to head if we want a safer environment for our exponentially growing population: deforestation,  pest attack, drought, floods, , arctic melting, population growth, tropical disease, heat wave to mention some of the major challenges humans will face in the near future.


Deforestation. Although since 2005 some of the world's tropical forests that come under sustainable management has increased by 50 percent (from 69 million hectares to 183 million hectares), that does not mean the carnage has stopped. The pressure to clear land for agriculture or settlements in countries like Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, to mention a few, is only poised to grow. Forests especially in the tropics tend to store massive amounts of carbon. When trees are removed, much of the carbon ends up in the atmosphere. Thus, deforestation accounts for as much as fifteen (15) percent of global carbon emissions. Let us not forget that forests provide habitat for wildlife. To protect the planet, we need to save the trees. For example, the forests of the Amazon basin are the vital oxygen in the lungs of the Homo sapiens. Global warming effects on terrestrial ecosystem and habitats pose great dangers on forests and mountains.


Pest Attack. As we experience warmer climate year after year, it encourages the growth of pests which destroy forests in unprecedented numbers. For example, pine beetle infestation of forests in British Columbia, Canada, which would have killed 50 percent of the pines within a few years of attack. Science now has begun to establish a sound relationship between global warming and wildfires which contribute immensely to the greenhouse effect. Amazon, humanity’s lungs, is the biggest remaining tropical rainforest on the planet. By mid-century, increases in temperature and associated deceases in soil and water are projected to lead to gradual replacement of tropical forests by savanna in eastern Amazonia.


Drought. According to weather experts' description, drought is a "creeping disaster." Even though it does not destroy homes like hurricanes and does not cause widespread death toll, drought can cost a nation billions of dollars. This kind of weather affliction could last months and even years. For example, since 2010 California has been having a drought, ruining crops and drying up riverbeds and lakes. The San Joaquin Valley, the bread banquet of the nation, has hardly any irrigation water to sustain crops and orchards. Years of relentless dry weather have reduced the flow of water like the Colorado river. As the global climate warms, droughts will become  worse. Climatic models predict that dry areas will get even drier. Such a change would spell disaster for the arid areas of rapidly growing American Southwest. Compared to the United States, the fate of regions like sub-Saharan Africa will become more tragic. This region, where poverty and drought are becoming an annual event, will be catastrophic for human habitation.


Floods. Environmentalists warn that if drought is the scarcity of water posed by climate change, floods hold the second place in global disaster. Climatologists claim that a hotter atmosphere can hold more moisture. When the climate warms, more water will end up circulating in the sky. As a consequence, storms become large-sized and when the rain comes it falls in torrents. The result can be devastating floods just like the weeks of downpours in the fall of 2011 swamped the entire Thailand. It has been estimated that more than 800 persons died in the floods, costing the country over $45 billion. Environmentalists warn us to expect damaging floods to increase in the near future. Against the background of population growth in coastal cities that are prone to floods, many more people and property will be in danger.


Arctic Melting. It has been stated that the best proof of climate change in action is to visit the northern parts of the world. Compared to the warming of the world as a whole by 1 degree Fahrenheit over the entire 20th century, most parts of the Arctic have heated up by 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950. In terms of area, in 2011 Arctic sea ice shrank to a summer low 1 million square miles below the 1979-2000 average low. Experts worry that Arctic sea ice melting will not abate. In fact, it will go into a "death spiral," unstoppable even if the world carbon emissions are reduced. Such a change, warns the environmentalists, has sobering consequences for the rest of the world population for the additional melted water in the seas and oceans will drown many areas and cities. Recently, I came across a photograph by certain Mr. Dean Whyte with the caption:  London 2023: City under Water. The implication was that due to global warming London would be submerged under water by the year 2023.


Population Explosion. the UN demographers have estimated that on October 31, 2011 the world population had attained a 7 billion persons. This phenomenal growth is scaring people. The huge number of people on the planet Earth is putting a stress on natural resources and generating more pollution by increasing greenhouse gases. Although the physical world has still spaces for people to live; however, humanity will be crowding plants and animals on the planet, and thus accelerating the extinction of many plant and animal species. The crowding will be worsened yet when the world population reaches 9 billion people by 2050, which is up 50 percent in a half century.


Spread of Disease. According to health care providers and other scientists, countries located in the tropics will tend to suffer disproportionately from deadly infectious disease. The heat and humidity will create a hospitable environment for many pathogens to survive and multiply, especially by those carried by parasites and insects. For example, malaria kills one million people a year. Additionally, the disease afflicts as  many as one billion people throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. With the rise in the temperature, the heat will most likely will enable mosquitoes to transmit the disease and widen the distribution of the bug. Thus, climate change will be one of the most important factors in the spread of malaria and other tropical diseases, posing a great health threat to the world population.


Heat Wave. While scientists debating on exactly how climate change will affect our planet, there is one factor that we know for sure and that is it will get hotter. Record high temperatures are recorded more frequently than record cold spells. In 2014, California has recorded heat waves in the middle of winter. Hot spells takes a toll on human lives of many countries. For example, in 2010 heat wave in Russia killed nearly 11,000 people in Moscow alone. The heat wave also ignited devastating wildfires throughout most of Siberia. During heat waves, air quality is worsened. The heat wave disproportionately kills very old and the very poor. In Chicago, where more than 700 people died during the great heat wave of 1995, the city planted trees to moderate temperatures and set up cool zones for the elderly residents. Other cities around the world are following suit since there is so much people can do to survive the deadly rays of the heat wave.


Armed Conflicts. The human condition will deteriorate with the global warming effects. To survive under austere conditions, humans will resort to violence such as killing and war. Many people are not aware of the fact that it was global warming effects that lie at the very heart of the well-known, little understood, tragic ethnic conflict in Darfur, Sudan. The conflict that began in 2003 was preceded by decades of drought, desertification, and overpopulation in this African nation. This sad situation forced camel-herding nomads from the Arab Baggara tribes searching for water for their livestock to travel south, which was heavily populated by non-Arab farming communities. The fight ensued for scarce resources the country could provide its people. Violence erupted and many people perished.


Everyday we are either hearing or reading sobering warnings: in a nutshell global warming is threatening human civilization. But what effect is global warming having outside of our species? The natural world is publicizing of the things to come in the plant and animal kingdom.  Warming-related changes are happening everywhere. All over the planet, scientists have observed the effects of climate change on the natural world such as flowers are blooming earlier, animals are breeding earlier, and ranges of plants and animals are changing size and shape. The planet Earth and its inhabitants are changing due to global warming. This shows that global warming will affect every aspect of life on Earth and that we should be prepared to counter its negative effects on plants, animals, and humans because without these entities the Earth would be a dreary place just like the planet Mars.



Z. S. Demirdjian, Ph.D.

Senior Review Editor

California State University, Long Beach

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