by Jack Lee
A greener world awaits us. It will be warmer, wetter and we’ll have a longer growing season – looks like better times to come, especially for people on the African continent where famines still occur regularly.
A quick look back to see where we were and where we’re going – The EPA estimated that over the last 100 years the ocean level has risen about five inches. This is due to a climate change pattern that has caused sheet ice from glaciers to melt and slide into the ocean and the melting of pack ice arctic regions. The EPA estimates that the scenario is likely to continue that oceans levels could rise another 5-6 inches in the next 100 years and possibly more. The current climate change is being caused mainly by an anthropogenic increase in CO2.
A wetter world means oceans will rise as polar ice melts. We should see an increase in the land mass for salt water marshes and wetlands, critical habitat for many species that previously suffered when the earth cooled and ocean levels receded, although some arctic animals may be harmed by this change in land allocation.
How it works – Cold climate retards plant and tree growth and thus retards the absorption of carbon dioxide, the main green house gas. However, as our climate warms plants and trees proliferate and thus produce more oxygen. Over time this causes a reversal in global warming and the earth begins to cool. A new cycle of global cooling begins. Back and forth, warming and cooling and so it has been for millions of years since life began.
In the age of the dinosaurs the warm climate was oxygen rich due to lush vegetation and scientists believe the oxygen rich atmosphere contributed to the great size of many land and ocean species. Will an oxygen rich atmosphere increase land animal sizes? If this warm cycle lasts long enough, probably, but its unlikely any major change in our animal physiology will be seen for several thousand of years and by then a new cooling cycle will have begun. You have to remember the warm, wet age of the dino’s lasted far longer than the current temperature cycles we now have.
The earth continually produces green house gases and the see-saw effect between warm and cold climates is a natural occurrence that works like a thermostat to keep the earth within an average temperature range that is conducive to life as we know it. When the earth cools some species will suffer and when it warms other species will gain, such is the ebb and flow of climate change.
Danger Ahead – The EPA estimates that a 12 inch ocean rise could result in a 36-58 percent increase in storm surge damage. This early warning data should give us plenty of time to develop new building codes needed to minimize storm surge damage along coastal areas. Storm intensity could also increase.
Property owners and this includes federal, state, and local governments, are already taking measures to prepare for the consequences of rising sea level. One of the early pieces of legislation has been adopted by Maine, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas. It’s known as “rolling easements,” in which people are allowed to build, but only on the condition that they will remove the structure if and when it is threatened by an advancing shoreline.
The give and take of global climate change will, as it has always been, be a bonanza to some and a loss to others. However, on the upside we should begin to see increased rain fall in the coming decades to some of our most arid regions making them increasingly more habitable to animals and people, once again.
The really good news – It’s expect this will increase the worlds food supply which is dependant on abundant rain fall and ground water. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, CA, USA), at Mauna Loa in Hawaii have already documented this is taking place.
A recent article by Thomas Moore, from EMBO, said: “A warmer climate, especially during the winter months, will mean a longer growing season in all parts of the world that now experience frost and snow during the winter. Any part of the world above 40 North will probably enjoy less ice and freezing weather, and a greater number of warmer days in the future. The longer periods of temperate weather coupled with an increased level of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause more plant growth–in other words, create a greener planet.”
Given that we currently do not live in an ideal climate, this is all very good news, but what our world will look like in another 200 years is hard to imagine, consider how far we’ve come in the last 200 years. “Heating costs will decrease, although this might be partly offset somewhat by higher costs for air conditioning in the summer. Less ice and snow in the winter would also mean fewer interruptions to transportation, both on highways and airports. In addition, people tend to prefer warmer climates: most people who retire in the USA do not move to North Dakota or Wisconsin, but head to Arizona or Florida. It also costs more to hire people to carry out the same job in cold areas than in warm areas, reflecting their climatic preferences–for example, salaries in Alaska and Minneapolis are higher than those in Texas (Moore, 1998).” So, it will definitely be a different sort of place we live in, but on the whole it should be a much better place.