By Amy Li
What if all the ice on the planet melted?
National Geographic recently published an interactive map titled “If All the Ice Melted” on its website that visualizes just that. The graphics compare the coastlines of the seven continents as we know them now to a hypothetical future in which the world’s ice has melted and caused a huge rise in sea level—216 feet, to be exact. According to the magazine, “if we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.” While it would take thousands of years for all the ice to melt in the world, the map is a sobering realization of the catastrophic effects climate change can have on the planet if we do nothing to reduce human impact on the environment.
Environmental events around the world are frequently linked to climate change in some form. Just last month, the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden shut down one of its reactors after a jellyfish cluster clogged its pipes. This supports evidence that there has been a growth in jellyfish blooms around the world over the past few decades. A warming Earth means rising ocean temperatures, creating a sea environment conducive to the growth of jellyfish blooms, as many jellyfish species thrive in warmer water temperatures. Human impact—such as pollution and overfishing—are also contributing factors.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard last year, it caused severe damage in the northeast, specifically in New York and New Jersey. Parts of New York City, famously known as “the city that never sleeps,” went dark after the hurricane caused a storm surge. The blackout resulted in New York Magazine’s now-famous Hurricane Sandy cover. What’s frustrating is that the sea-level rise resulting from climate change amplified the effects of the hurricane on the coast. Even a year later, people are still recovering from the storm.
Climate change has affected many aspects of life on Earth. Aside from rising sea temperatures and disastrous storms, we are experiencing a higher frequency of heat waves and an impact on human health due to the spread of diseases. The changes in global temperature is also significant to animal and plant life. In addition, our global food supply is at risk due to climate change. Crops, livestock, fisheries and more are not immune to these changes.
It’s evident that we need to do something about climate change. But are we too insignificant to affect global climate? The short answer is no. While global warming is too large of a problem for one person to solve, individuals can take steps to help reduce the effects of climate change. The first step is awareness. With the frequent climate change and environmental coverage in the media, it’s easy to forget that there are those out there who are unaware or still deny that climate change is a problem. This is despite the fact that 97 percent of all climate experts agree that climate change is a reality caused by humans. Climate change is also not immune to local, national and international politics. It can be cumbersome to navigate through the laws and regulations surrounding this hot topic.
So what can we do to help? The Climate Reality Project, founded by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore, has a list of resources so people can take action now. The Environmental Protection Agency has a website you can check out to see what you can do to help fight climate change. One Percent for the Planet is also a great resource to discover green-oriented, innovative companies. Climate change remains a controversial topic and a problem for our environment, but that first step towards change is always the hardest step.
Image by NOAA Photo Library