“You see that pale, blue dot? That’s us. Everything that has ever happened in all of human history, has happened on that pixel. All the triumphs and all the tragedies, all the wars all the famines, all the major advances… it’s our only home. And that is what is at stake, our ability to live on planet Earth, to have a future as a civilization. I believe this is a moral issue, it is your time to seize this issue, it is our time to rise again to secure our future”
Ever since Al Gore chose to call it an “inconvenient truth”, global warming has become a buzzword in newsrooms and classrooms alike. While some may choose to call the matter a hoax or conspiracy, the scientific community has been unequivocal in its stance that human activities have adverse affects on the environment. So what is global warming? Wikipedia tells us:
“Global warming is the rise in the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation.”
Studies have shown that the Earth’s average temperature is projected to rise by 4 degrees Celsius while the mean sea level is also set to rise by about 0.5 metres. Such drastic changes are cause primarily by four agents:
• Greenhouse gases
• Ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide
• Loss of sea ice
Climate Risk Index is a figure that expresses the extent to which countries are affected by changes in climate. Only four developed countries figure in the top 20 worst affected countries. Poorer, developing nations are hit much harder by the phenomenon. Here’s a look at some of the countries that are worst hit by global warming.
Bangladesh is subject many of the effects of climate change due to its geographical location, hydrological regulation from monsoon rains and regional water aggregation patterns. The country receives too much rain during the monsoons and too little water in the dry season. This situation will be exacerbated by a warmer climate, resulting in increased flooding and droughts which threaten to adversely affect agricultural output. What worsens the situation is the fact that the sea level is rising from the south and the increase in reception of water from Himalayan glaciers will cause an inundation of the regions located in the base of the mountains.
Projections indicate that sea level rise will cause heavy flooding in certain areas of the country. A rise of 45 cm in the sea level will likely result in the inundation of about 10 percent of the country. For sea level rise of 1m, 21 percent of the country will go under saltwater (IPCC, 2005). Such a rise is likely to inundate coastal wetlands and lowlands, cause an increase in coastal erosion, increase frequent and severe floods and create agriculture related issues.
The competition for natural resources, increasingly lacking due to global warming, is looked at as the trigger of the conflict in western Sudan. The UNEP has noted that Sudan, along with other countries in the belt, has suffered several long and devastating droughts in the past few decades. The most severe one lasting 5 years, from 1980-1984. It was accompanied by severe famine and displacement of locals.
The UNEP report also mentions the erosion of natural resources caused by climactic variations as among the root causes of internal strife in the country.
Siberian environment seems to be transforming due to global warming. Evidence shows that carbon cycles are displaying rapid change, with potentially grave consequences for the region’s flora and fauna. Descriptions of energy and water cycles, changes in surface reflectance due to snow, ice and vegetation coverage are indices that dictate the regions susceptibility to climate change. The area is perfect to study the effects of climate warming, as the forest-permafrost relationship is subject to abnormal variations in temperature and precipitation.
Australian drought are now directly liked with global warming in the region. Record high temperatures are increasing evaporation, damaging greenery and causing a fall in the water levels in agricultural basins. Prolonged high temperature periods are equally hazardous to plants and human life. An average of 1,100 people lose their life to climate related irregularities and this number stands to increase.
Australia’s Great barrier reef, a wonder of the natural world and the only living thing visible from space, has already experienced massive bleaching. It is a hugely popular tourist destination, visited by thousands every year. The warming of water is not only affecting Australia’s wildlife but also its economy.
In Myanmar the problem of environmental changes is compounded by the fact that the polity has been mired in turmoil and this has resulted in environmental considerations being placed on the back-burner or not being taken up at all. Climatic changes from the cold to warmer seasons led to the rise in temperature and caused the spread of water borne diseases . The change in weather leads to the growth of parasites in the water which impairs the natural processes in marine conditions. Fish seem to be dying due to a lack of oxygen and the proliferation of parasitic organisms.
Former climate change readings give us insights into the future of the climate change scenario in Vietnam. These can be used to predict the future trends. Their repercussions for human welfare indicate the nature and extent of the impact of global warming. The climate data for much of this region starts off in the latter part of the 19th century. The yearly temperature record shows that temperatures remained relatively unchanged over much of the period of a century beginning in the tail end of the 1800’s. Sudden warming has occurred since the 1970s. The net warming is agreed to be at about 0.27 deg. C. According to projections, annual temperatures in the area of Hanoi may rise by just over 1 deg. C by the year 2050 and by close to 2.5 deg. C by the year 2100. This is almost ten times the warming pace experience over the last 70 years. If the most harsh projections are accurate, temperatures may rise by over 4 degrees celsius by the end of this century
Cambodia is another country that faces a high risk of floods and droughts. The high dependency on rain fed farming is one of the main reasons it is so susceptible to climate related issues. Between 1998 and 2002, floods caused 70% loss in rice production and drought caused 20% loss. A report suggests that due to global warming, wet season rainfall has increased while dry season rainfall has decreased. These skewed patterns in precipitation pose a major threat to this agriculture intensive economy.
8. Dominican Republic
Though this Caribbean island is in grave danger due to the effects of global warming, one of the major challenges in overcoming climate change adaptation policies in the Dominican Republic is the low awareness of the risks. The nation stands to lose 14 percent of its territory by 2100 and the salinisation of half its aquifers due to the phenomenon. Also, recently a high risk of dengue was noted in the region. Experts cited that global warming may be contributing to this as well.
The Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons a year. Additionally seen are numerous incidents of floods, drought, earthquakes and even episodic volcanic eruptions, making it one of the most naturally disaster-prone countries in the world. The panel on climate change says mean temperatures in the Philippines are rising by 0.14C per decade. Scientists are also registering steadily rising sea levels around the Philippines, and a water table that is steadily being depleted. These factors seem to portend an increase the likelihood and incidence of extreme weather events while adversely affecting food production and yields.
China, due to the expansive nature of its geography, is facing a number of great challenges due to varying environmental conditions. In the western plateau region, an area that covers about one fourth of China’s land surface, average temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit just since the 1980’s. The region is heating up rapidly, and glaciers seem to shrinking by 7 percent a year. The tundra that spans Tibet and the surrounding area may eventually deteriorate into desert if present trends continue. This will intensify the droughts and sandstorms already slashing the northern domain.
In the south, however, the rivers, streams, and lakes supplied by the melting ice sheets will get flooded. Those who depend upon these bodies of water for drinking, fishing, transportation, irrigation, and electricity will find their livelihood difficult to maintain.