Climate Change

Have you felt it lately? Maybe the temperature has been a little too warm for you, or perhaps where you live… a little too cold. Instead of feeling it, maybe you’ve seen it with your own eyes. The waves crashing on the shore a little higher than they once did a couple of years previously. Another example could be the migrating birds that you enjoy watching are just not coming as early as they did in the past. These events are caused by climate change which is affecting many aspects of the natural world, here are some of them.


Weather


An array of extreme summer weather events in recent years including the 2003 European Heat Wave, the 2010 Pakistan flood/Russian heatwave, 2011 Texas drought and the unprecedented, ongoing drought in California, has led to an ongoing discussion in the scientific research in regards to the relationship between human induced climate change and the spate of recent weather extremes. Research showed that the Northern Hemisphere summer storm activity have weakened since 1979 and theorized that this may lead to more persistent, and therefore more extreme, summer weather. Less summer cyclone activity also leads to a decrease in cloud cover, giving rise to increased maximum temperatures.



Unusual weather patterns are now becoming the norm


The East Asian summer monsoon brings vital water for farming practices to most of eastern China. In recent years the southern provinces of China have experienced an increased rate of extreme flooding during the monsoon season. In contrast Northern provinces of China have experienced an increase in extreme summer droughts. Numerous studies have also noted changes in total summer rain that coincide with the increasing trend in worldwide temperatures. Many studies also show altered patterns of summer rainfall in eastern China, with higher numbers of heavy rainfall days and decreases in numbers of light rainfall days reported.


Projected climatic changes for the 21st-century, are comparable in magnitude to the largest global changes in the past 65 million years. The combined rate and magnitude of climate change is already resulting in a global-scale biological response. Marine, freshwater, and terrestrial organisms are changing distributions to stay within their preferred environmental conditions, and species are likely changing distributions more rapidly than they have in the past.


Animal Behaviour


Shifts in species distributions have been extensively reported. Research shows terrestrial taxa, on average, moving poleward by 17 km per decade, and marine taxa by 72 km per decade. Just as land species on mountainsides are moving upslope to escape warming lowlands, some fish species are driven deeper as the sea surface warms. When species range changes occur, they can have pervasive effects that spread through entire communities. In some cases, impacts are so extreme that species redistribution changes ecosystem productivity and carbon storage. For example, climate-driven range expansion of mangroves worldwide, at the expense of saltmarsh habitat, is changing local rates of carbon sequestration. The loss of kelp-forest ecosystems in Australia and their replacement by seaweed turfs has been connected to increases in herbivory by the invasion of tropical fishes, as well as being strongly influenced by increases in water temperature beyond the kelp’s physiological tolerance limits. A variety of disruptions from the redistribution of species include effects on land productivity and threats to the health of freshwater systems from widespread cyanobacteria blooms.



Animals behaviours are changing due to the heat and their food resources


Sea Rise


Sea level has risen, the amount of snow and ice has declined globally and the Arctic is a global ‘hot-spot’ that is warming faster than any other region in the world. One of the most visible and dramatic impacts of climate change in the Arctic has been the reduction in sea ice, which has declined markedly in recent decades in terms of overall extent, thickness and seasonal duration. A summer-time ice-free Arctic Ocean will have implications for ocean circulation and our global climate system, and it will also show changes throughout Arctic food webs. The increased warming predicted for the coming years in the Arctic will result in average mid-winter temperatures approaching 0 °C, which will likely have far reaching problems for terrestrial ecosystems in the region.



Warm water expands contributing to sea level rise


Climate Change and humans

The well-being of human societies is linked to the amount of natural and altered ecosystems to produce a wide range of “goods and services.” The beginning of early humans was likely molded by a capacity to switch prey and diets as changing climatic conditions made new resources available. However, recent technological alterations in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries have weakened the direct connection between human migration and survival. The redistributions of species are expected to change the availability and distribution of goods and services for human well-being in many ways, and the relative immobility of many human societies, largely imposed by jurisdictional boundaries, has limited capacity to respond to environmental change by migrating. Redistributions of species are likely to drive large changes in the supply of food and other products.

Evidence continues to build up for the existence of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and its likely negative effects for humans and other species around the world. Such engagement certainly cannot be taken for granted, with behavioural and other changes still desperately needed to curb carbon emissions. Climate change has been associated as “a perfect moral storm,” involving the convergence of multiple factors that make it difficult for humans to react in an ethical way, at least until mitigating action may be too late. An important difficulty is that high carbon behaviours are highly valued and deeply embedded in many people's lives. This can create disparity between moral values and behaviour for those who are concerned about ACC, yet feel unable or unwilling to alter their behaviours accordingly, yielding negative emotions including guilt. Denial remains prominent in public and media discourse in a number of settings, including the UK.

This is where we will leave it for today.



The weather is changing... are you


References

Descamps, S., Aars, J., Fuglei, E.V.A., Kovacs, K.I.T.M., Lydersen, C., Pavlova, O., Pedersen, A., Ravolainen V & Strøm, H. 2017. Climate change impacts on wildlife in a High Arctic Archipelago – Svalbard, Norway. Global Change Biology (23): 490–502.

Hall, M.P., Lewis, N.A. & Ellsworth, P.C. 2018. Believing in climate change, but not behaving sustainably: Evidence from a one-year longitudinal study. Journal of Environmental Psychology, (56): 55–62.

Mann, M.E., Rahmstorf, S., Kornhuber, K., Steinman, B.A. & Miller, S.K., Coumou, D. 2017. Influence of Anthropogenic Climate Change on Planetary Wave Resonance and Extreme Weather Events. Nature Publishing Group Scientific Reports, (7):45242.

Burke, C & Stott, P. 2017. Impact of Anthropogenic Climate Change on the East Asian Summer Monsoon. Journal of Climate: 5205–5220.

Pecl, G. T., Araujo, M. B., Bell, J., Blanchard, J., Bonebrake, T. C.2017). Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science. Research Online. (355), 1-9.

Woods, R., Coen, S. & Fernández, A. 2018. Moral (dis)engagement with anthropogenic climate change in online comments on newspaper articles. Journal of Community Applied Social Psychology, (28): 244–257.

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