Mass Extinction On The Horizon From Rising Temperatures
Throughout history the earth’s climate has consisted of seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, warming and cooling. The majority of these climates have resulted from factors such as changes in the tilt of the Earth's axis, predictable cyclical events (night and day, summer and winter). However, today the planet is warming much faster than it has ever done in human history. Worryingly, the global average air temperature has increased by 2°C in the last century. It is clear from scientific evidence that this increase in temperature has been a result of human activity. Scientists attribute the global warming trend to the human expansion of the "greenhouse effect" - warming that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. The problem we now face is that human activities – particularly burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), agriculture and land clearing – are increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases. This is the enhanced greenhouse effect, which is contributing to warming of the Earth.
In 2015 the Paris agreement declared that the world should try to keep the earth’s ‘warming trend’ below 2°C by 2100. It is said that if temperatures spike above 1.5°C for a significant period of time, ecosystems already affected by existing warming of 1.1°C will become even more severely damaged. Global warming has the potential to cause extinctions in a majority of the world's especially valuable ecosystems.
The WWF stating “With these changes, species have to adapt to new climate patterns (variations in rainfall; longer, warmer summers etc). The fate of many species in a rapidly warming world will likely depend on their ability to migrate away from increasingly less favorable climatic conditions to new areas that meet their physical, biological, and climatic needs.”
WWF scientists have estimated that most species on this planet (including plants) will have to "move" faster than 1,000 metres per year if they are to keep within the climate zone which they need for survival. A half-degree increase would permanently damage a variety of ecosystems and lead to the extinction of even more species across the globe.
“Europe is home to over 90% of the Atlantic puffin population, but their numbers have been crashing in the last two decades as a result of rise in ocean temperatures.” - WWF report “Feeling the Heat”
Puffins face many threats to their colonies. Overfishing has already severely reduced their food source, as well as diving to catch fish, puffins are at risk of becoming entangled in fishing gear. Man-made obstructions like this, decrease the puffins' ability to catch fish and feed their young. Global warming leads to more severe and frequent weather events, which affects the puffins that spend most of their time at sea. High winds and heavy rainfall affect the birds’ ability to dive and find food. During the breeding season, extreme weather chills the eggs, while storms destroy nests with chicks. If we want to keep puffins and other seabird species afloat, we need to act now and limit the rise in global temperatures.
Neighbouring species, Mountain Hares in the Highlands of Scotland grow white coats for camouflage in winter, but the snow is melting earlier, before their coats have returned to brown, leaving them exposed to predators. The mismatch is dangerous not just for hares in Scotland: it is a risk for many species that rely on seasonal changes to their coat as an adaptation to avoid predators.
WWF’s report demonstrates the harm that will come to a wide variety of species due to the rise in global temperature including snow leopards, hippos, monkeys and frogs, sea turtles and coral. Leatherback turtles are sensitive to even slight changes in temperature, as the sex of the turtle is determined while the egg incubates in the sand – hotter sand means more females are born, as opposed to males and some eggs fail to hatch at all.
Around 1 million species are at risk of extinction, many within decades, according to a UN report. Scientists warn that more than 500 species of land animals are on the brink of extinction, with two out of five plant species also at risk.
There was some positive hope shown in COP26 President-Designate Alok Sharma’s major speech at Whitelee Windfarm. Sharma’s 1st goal for COP26: “to put the world on a path to driving down emissions, until they reach net zero by the middle of this century. And that’s because if we want to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, the science is clear that by 2050 we should not be producing more carbon dioxide, than we are taking out of the atmosphere. Because it is greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that are heating our planet. Driving up global temperatures. So we are asking all countries to set targets to get us to net zero by the middle of the century, and to come forward with 2030 emissions reduction targets to take us there. Targets based on the science, so that net zero is not just some vague aspiration, but a concrete plan.”
Discussing the future of the planet can be overwhelming and often depressing with no hope for a positive future. However, we wouldn’t share this with you if there weren’t ways to help! Climate action is needed and needed Fast!
Here are 5 ways you can help save our planet.
1.Use your voice and vote
Speaking up is one of the most powerful things you can do especially if it’s to the right people. Talk to your MP. Tell them to commit to action to protect our natural world.
Everyone in the UK over the age of 18 can vote for their MP. This is an opportunity to vote for someone who is representative of you and your views and will make the environment a top priority.
2. Be informed
Get yourself clued up on the facts, stay up to date with recent news on the state of our natural world and work out what you can do. We have the world at our fingertips, so learn from influential people, keep up with the news and research organisations that are working to make our planet a better place.
3. Purchase responsibly
Brands are increasingly becoming more conscious about how their impact on the planet will be perceived and in turn how that impacts their bottom line. However, sadly we are still not where we need to be, and too many businesses make good profits from unsustainable and unethical practices. The only way to put a stop to this is by deciding not to purchase from them, instead purchase from transparent, sustainable and ethical companies which try to reduce their environmental impact as much as possible.
4. Travel Responsibly
Transport is one of the most polluting sectors in the UK. But holidaying closer to home can make a big impact on your carbon footprint. One short haul return flight can account for 10% of your yearly carbon emissions, and long-haul flights can completely determine your carbon impact.
5. Reduce your waste
We need to make wasting our resources unacceptable in all aspects of our life. Every product we buy has an environmental footprint and could end up in landfill. The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is becoming increasingly clear, having drastic impacts on marine life