The effects that climate change has had on our environment is already prominent and noticeable. Data collected by NASA shows that carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in 650,000 years, nine of the ten warmest summers recorded have been documented since 2000, and the land ice loss each year has doubled in a short time from 1996 to 2005. These effects have been monitored after only decades of considerable fossil fuel emissions. If greenhouse gasses continue to be released into the atmosphere at this rate, even with the measures we have already taken, it could spell damaging implications for life on Earth.
Estimates for the state of climate by the year 2100, predict that the additional production of greenhouse gasses will cause the Earth’s average temperature to rise by an additional 1.2 degrees Celsius. It has taken an estimated two hounded years for the average temperature to raise by only .8 degrees Celsius, which depicts a seemingly exponential growth in the amount of emissions we are producing. The effects of the .8 degree increase can already be seen due to the effect that even a small increase in temperature can have on weather patterns. An additional increase could lead to a greater prevalence of droughts, wildfires, and the disappearance of more polar ice caps. These phenomena can severely hurt wildlife, and if they are not able to adapt, they may potentially face extinction. The ecosystem has a very powerful effect on the living creatures that inhabit it, and even a small change in temperature could vastly hurt wildlife.
A recent study by twenty six climate scientists called the Copenhagen Diagnostic, analyzed the long term effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It found that carbon dioxide has an extremely long life cycle of up to one thousand years. This means that even if we were to obtain a zero-emission society, the effects of the already present carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will remain for a very long time. Additionally, the study looked at the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on the oceans. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes the water temperature of oceans to increase. This is an issue because it not only increases the acidity of ocean water, which could harm marine life, but also because heated water expands. The expanding water coupled with meleting polar ice caps causes sea levels to rise. Estimates depict that at the current level of carbon dioxide emission, the average sea level will increase by up to five meters by the year 2300. This is alarming as such a large increase in sea level could severely hurt coastal areas due to flooding and salt water harming agriculture. The before mentioned phenomena of the long life cycle of carbon dioxide indicates that this increased sea level would be extremely hard to counteract once it has occurred.
The increased average temperature across the globe has implications to largely increase the variation of weather patterns. Over the last 50 years, there has been a recorded increase in extreme weather events including heat waves, heavy storms, and severe floods and droughts. Heat waves and droughts have been brought on by the increased temperatures in certain areas, which causes water to evaporate rapidly. Heavy storms and floods have been the result of mildly increased temperatures that increase the humidity of air allowing for a large increase in precipitation. These events have all been seem to increase in prevalence, especially over the last fifty years, due to the increased amount of carbon dioxide and greenhouses gasses in the atmosphere. The prediction of additional emissions in future decades could increase these events even more and could potentially produce even harsher conditions.
These future effects of a continuing neglecting of climate change can impose severe repercussions for society as a whole. It is almost impossible to revert the excess release of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses in a reasonable amount of time. Therefore, the only reasonable solution to the issue of climate change is halting the supply of these harmful molecules into the atmosphere. There is no doubt that society is starting to search for cleaner solutions, however while we are slowly integrating cleaner alternatives, harmful gasses are still being released at dangerous levels. Temperatures are slowly rising and if society does not recognize the issue as a whole early enough, we may reach harmful environmental conditions that we may not be able to easily recover from.