Global warming has been altering climatic rhythms and behavior of different living organisms. This development raises questions on what can be done to slow down the rate at which these changes are taking place. Other people are thinking along the lines of what can be done to enable humanity cope with the problem that is already being experienced. This paper presents the overall impact of global warming with a focus on the Arctic region. Further, the paper provides some key solutions that can be implemented to reduce its effects, not only on animals but also on vegetation.
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Global warming threatens the earth’s face to the extent that the fate of farms, forests, snowcapped mountains, and coasts remains uncertain. Temperatures on the earth’s surface have been rising at a heightened pace in relation to what has been experienced in the previous years. Currently, scientists are at a 90 percent confidence level that global warming is mainly a result of increased concentration of greenhouse gases that result from the activities of human beings, carbon dioxide emissions that result from the combustion of fossil fuel, production of cement, and excessive land misuse such as deforestation. Human influence has played a big role in warming the ocean, the atmosphere, and the witnessed fall of ice and snow levels. Besides, human activities have contributed a lot in the witnessed rise of the global average sea level. This paper seeks to explore the issues of global warming with a specific focus on the Arctic.
Observations indicate that ice at the polar sea melts during summer. The melting process is followed by reformation that is witnessed each winter in a cycle, which is commonly known as the freeze-thaw (Borgerson, 2013). The freeze-thaw phase has been immensely distorted in the Arctic by the witnessed large-scale heating. The summer ocean frost is lessening at a high pace in the Arctic region. The mean width of the ice in the sea is also reducing. In the earlier periods, the Arctic frost developed to a breadth of roughly 4m for several decades. The case is different now where much of the ice is consisting of only a single year’s growth. This situation increases its susceptibility to melting during summer. Projections by scientists suggest that the Arctic Ocean might be free of ice in summer a few decades to come (Borgerson, 2013).
Increased Heating Pace
Increased speed of heating will result from albedo (loss of Arctic’s reflectivity). When ice is lost, it exposes dark and open waters. The situation leads to a radical change of the marine exterior from an extremely deep one to an exterior that takes in a huge portion of the energy that is released by the sun. Such a condition brings with it various risks whose effects may be severe. It has the potential of initiating a vicious cycle where ice loss results in greater ocean surface warming that in turn may result in excessive loss of ice. Polar reflectivity loss, which is commonly termed as albeido, is a climate-related amplification on which scientists are spending a lot of time and resources to investigate (Warren, 2014).
Further, the speeding up in heating may also result from elevated Arctic hotness. Contraction of frost in the Arctic Ocean causes an increase in the area warmth, which leads to a hindrance in the development of frost in the ocean. It also results in the transfer of greater amounts of ocean heat into the air. Such higher temperatures may quicken the melting of the permafrost (frozen ground) on lands that lie adjacent to the ocean (Laine, Manninen & Riihelä, 2014). If this situation happens, the melting may trigger the release of vast amounts of carbon contents that have been trapped for many years in the permafrost, thus amplifying climate change further.
Threat to Creatures at the Polar Region
Some polar creatures usually rely heavily on ice for some sections or all of their life cycle. Such creatures face a great risk that is posed by a world that is constantly getting warmer (Radovanović & Ducić, 2014). The effects of global warming on some of these creatures are already being experienced at the Arctic. For instance, colonies of penguins are migrating to other locations. Their major food source is changing due to a shift in the oceanic temperatures. Their food source consists of krill, which are small creatures that are found close to marine food web’s bottom. Creatures in these chilly zones are forced to whirl for several kilometers across the ocean to reach the environment that is conducive for their survival. They have to look for an environment that has seals, which constitute their food. Seals use breathing holes that are found in the ice.
Threats to Indigenous Lifestyles
Indigenous Arctic lifestyles have existed and flourished for many years. However, the evident alterations in the animal habitats threaten these indigenous lifestyles. Thin ice has made it difficult to apply traditional hunting methods. It has amplified the risks that are imminent during hunting. Another reason for the heightened level of risk is the unpredictability of the freeze-thaw dates. The unexpected freeze or thaw leaves most of the Arctic’s inhabitants unsure of what to expect.
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As a result, such creatures are less prepared to handle the conditions that may arise while they are out hunting or carrying out other activities (Schuldt, Konrath & Schwarz, 2011). For this reason, the inhabitants are unable to plan their activities well upon consideration of the weather conditions and the expected changes in temperatures. These factors have a great implication on how they go about their activities.
Sea ice loss affects the coastline significantly. The loss exposes the coastal areas of the Arctic to high erosion levels. The main causes of erosion are strong waves and winds that blow across the Arctic’s coastal areas. This situation poses a great risk to the lives of the residents in the area. It sometimes forces some communities to shift inland entirely after fearing for their lives. The erosion reduces the amount of ground that is available for habitation by human beings and other living organisms that are found in the Arctic (Radovanović & Ducić, 2014). Many of them are forced to squeeze on the remaining sections of land as the severity of the effects of global warming increase with time.
Safety Matters over New Distribution Pathways
Many scientists agree that loss of ice at the Arctic Ocean is bound to open more and efficient global shipping routes. Such routes can help in cutting down on the cost of mining oil and gas since they avail easier access to such minerals. The Arctic region is heavily endowed with valuable minerals. Countries feel obliged to protect these commercial and natural resources (Borgerson, 2013). However, there is a security threat since the countries in the region are competing and disagreeing over right of ownership and access to such minerals.
Global warming implies a general rise in the temperatures of the world. The effect has been the melting of ice at the Arctic region. Liquefying frost, which finds its way into the sea, elevates the water depths. The result of this inflow is flooding of the coastlines. The implication is a reduction in the coastlines across the continents as water from melting ice covers them. However, it is worth noting that water from the melting of sea ice does not result in flooding. The reason for this occurrence is that sea ice takes up some mass of the sea. As such, its melting does not result in an increase in the mass of the sea or flooding in that case (Schuldt et al., 2011). Since oceans are interconnected the world over, melting of ice at the Arctic region is bound to affect all the coastal parts of the globe.
The dominant species of plants that make up the Arctic vegetation vary significantly from those that are found in other places of the world except for the alpine vegetation. The species at the Arctic region have the ability of carrying out their reproductive and metabolic processes at temperatures that are just below or above 0 degrees centigrade. The intensity of ice in the area have been witnessed for many decades merely having a slim vigorous soil coating that undergoes melting each hot season (Radovanović & Ducić, 2014).
The slim soil coating and reduced heat restrain vegetation from getting enough food. Vegetation in the Arctic region has coped with the restrained availability of food and development in the mineral-deficient soil. Environmental transformations stand a chance to interfere with several ecological aspects in the Arctic region. For instance, such fluctuations tamper with the way of many organisms that have managed to cope with the Arctic settings. The effects may be in the form of adjusted rainfall behaviors, unpredictable frost thawing, unlimited development period, amplified disintegration and mineralization pace, and bottomless soil deposits (Huebert, 2012).
All these aspects have an effect on the plant’s phenological development and productivity responses. This outcome will have the effect of restraining the plant life in this area. The tree line will not only change but will also lead to the extermination of plant species. Living things that rely on the vanishing vegetation varieties in the area are also bound to be affected. Such animals include mammals, arthropods (spiders, insects), and birds.
The mutual interaction that has been witnessed for a long time between vegetation and pests has played a significant role in pest pollination. Such mutual associations are in some cases so powerful that they are susceptible to the effects of environmental adjustments (Schuldt et al., 2011). For instance, a hotter environment may lead to sudden blossoming that is not accompanied by a similar modification of the living succession of pests that the affected vegetation relies on. The tundra plants that usually experience early flowering make up a vulnerable group. However, not much is known concerning the degree of the impact of climate change on this vulnerable coexistence. Unfamiliar pest varieties from the south may restrain the variety of creatures that are already used to the existing frozen environment.
Animals that give birth in the Arctic region feed on vegetation and other organisms. The effects of climate change for the case of herbivores such as musk oxen, lemmings, Arctic hares, and reindeers depends immensely on their access to plants that form part of their diet (Huebert, 2012). For such animals, a situation of extended growth season is a great advantage to them while harder winters make their life more difficult. When snow develops on their browsing fields, they may result in insufficient or complete absence of food that may lead to hunger or demise.
On the other hand, the survival and thriving of predators such as wolves, wolverines, and the Arctic fox depends on their access to the herbivores (Huebert, 2012). For instance, the Arctic fox specifically relies on the population of lemmings. Observations point to an emerging trend where years with abundance of lemmings are less frequent because of climate change. However, with other killers, people create a bigger danger compared to environmental fluctuations.
The Antarctic bear is the largest animal in the world, which thrives in frozen Arctic environment depending wholly on seals for its continued existence. Ocean frost offers a podium upon which bears can tour to pursue prey and/or reproduce (Huebert, 2012). Female bears usually give birth to their young ones in the snow dens that are found on land. They do not live as a single group. Rather, they live in separate groups that are spread across the Arctic region.
Their numbers are very large. As such, their protection is paramount. Female bears often start breeding when they have reached the age of between 4 and 5 years old when they are able to give birth to a maximum of only three cubs. On average, only a single cub is able to attain the age of two years due to the high infant mortality. For this reason, their ability to replace members of their population is low, and hence an extremely low population growth rate.
The polar bears are nearly wholly dependent on ice for their basic survival. Over the past three decades, massive reductions in the sea ice cover in the Arctic threaten their (bears) existence due to global warming. Currently, the bears are experiencing poor diets. Their body conditions are in a poor state in some areas of the Arctic (Schuldt et al., 2011). The extensive decrement in the exposure of Arctic Ocean frost may tamper with ease of use to seals, thus causing glacial bears to witness issues in their continued existence within a short time-span.
Arctic Bird Life
Considering the situation of birds at the Arctic, it is hard to tell what the impact of global warming will be on them. The major cause for this deduction is that only a small number of birds are found in the chilly zones for periods exceeding four months. Their way of life seems more affected by conditions elsewhere as opposed to the Arctic. Nevertheless, it is improbable that the birds’ modification capability will be affected by environmental fluctuations that result from global warming. Increased summer temperatures and earlier snow melting are of benefit to the nesting of birds. Further, greater precipitation and increased cloud formation are bound to have a negative effect on the birds.
On the other hand, the greatest effect for birds that are travelling to other regions may certainly be determined by environmental fluctuations that are being witnessed in areas that are beyond the Arctic (Huebert, 2012). For instance, climate circumstances at places where they break in their journey in their traveling routes are of great importance since they determine successful resting zones when they reach their nesting sites. Such stopovers, which are found mainly along the coastal areas, face the risk of disappearance because of the continued rising of the sea levels. Similar zones in the Arctic’s interior are also endangered due to a heightened famine occurrence.
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Existence in the Arctic Ocean
The presence of Arctic flowers from microorganisms that avail nourishment for other creatures and small fish species during spring determines the amount of fish varieties. In effect, they serve to explain the presence of huge fish stocks that live in the Arctic seas. Environment adjustments have had the effect of escalating the heat at the sea, an aspect that is of tremendous significance in the production, circulation, and continued existence of immature fish in the area (Huebert, 2012). Currently, scientists anticipate that a number of species may migrate northwards. However, uncertainty looms regarding their ability to adapt to the new areas given the huge variations in relation to the depth of the ocean and the conditions of the seabed.
In addition, worries are rife regarding modifications in the nature of the algae flowers that are found along the boundaries of the frost since thawing causes the frost to withdraw with time. A disproportion is also coming up in respect of the site and instances that are certainly harmful to the species of fish that rely on small microorganisms for their continued existence. The sea has an incredible ability of absorbing carbon dioxide. However, this ability causes a fall in the sea’s pH positions. The lowering pH of the deep-sea is harmful to organisms such as crabs and lobsters among other microorganisms.
Six different seal species are in existence in the waters of the Arctic in addition to the walruses, which enjoy their full protection (Laine et al., 2014). The continued decrease in the snow layers during hot seasons tampers with the livelihood of seals. The observation holds since such animals rely much on the snow layers to shed their skins and/or reproduce. The thawing of frost diminishes their territory significantly. On the other hand, even though it is uncertain, whales in this chilly region may have an added advantage to some extent from the rising heat and the decreasing frost since such adjustments increase the size of their homes.
Human influence is to blame for a big portion of issues that are afflicting the Arctic (Huebert, 2012). People in the Arctic have experienced the direct impact of the climate change. The warming of the climate presents numerous challenges for local communities that live around these areas. Communities that rely on hunting activities for their survival have been immensely affected by the increase in temperatures. The temperatures are reducing sea ice, thus serving to cause a decline in the species of animals that are available for them to hunt.
Possible Solutions to Global Warming
The biggest contributory source of power that causes global warming is the energy that is used in operating, warming, and calming of companies, residential areas, and production centers. Technology promotes energy efficiency. It has allowed the use of less energy while still achieving the same results or even much better ones (Huebert, 2012). The approach has a great potential of saving energy and resources. It may be deployed within a short time.
It is extremely important to lessen the utilization of carbon-related energy while trying to address the issue of environmental fluctuations. A number of ways can be used in initiating the process of phasing out the use of fossil fuel to produce electricity. The first step is stopping any further plans of constructing new coal power plants. This step should be followed by a systematic closedown of all coal power plants whilst giving priority to the old and dirty plants and finishing with the more recent ones.
Meanwhile, it is crucial to capture and/or store carbon emissions to prevent any further effects on the atmosphere that may contribute to more warming. Some technologies are specifically designed to capture such emissions, which are then stored underground. Even though the technologies have not yet been tested with coal plants, they have proved helpful when it comes to the recovery of oil and gas (Lei & Li, 2014). It is worthy to pursue tests on the viability of such technologies in capturing carbon emissions from coal power plants.
Emissions that are released by the transportation have increased at a much faster rate compared to other sectors that use energy (Laine et al., 2014). Various solutions are available that can help in curbing the emission levels of the transport industry. One of them is improving the efficiency of the different transport modes, changing from high-carbon to low-carbon content fuels, and/or advocating the use of efficient mass transport systems.
Wind power, solar power, bio-energy, and geothermal energies are clean and renewable sources whose use can contribute immensely to the reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere (Lesser, 2012). Reusable power has the capability of satisfying the power requirements of all citizens. Deployment of renewable technologies can be done quickly. Such energies are also cost-effective. They lead to job creating while minimizing pollution.
Various countries around the world vary immensely in the way they contribute to the issue of climate change. They also vary in their capacities and responsibilities to handle it based on their level of development. While combating global warming, rich countries should be readily willing to lend their support to their poor counterparts in terms of resources and technology (Lei & Li, 2014). This plan should be the case in enabling a smooth transition from the current high-carbon emission levels and the development of pathways to low-carbon emissions in both the rich and poor countries. Such assistance may be necessary in helping all countries move together in adapting to some of the effects of climate change.
Cutting down of trees in the tropical regions contributes to about ten percent of the heat-trapping emissions in the world. Carbon dioxide constitutes one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming by trapping heat (Huebert, 2012). Trees usually absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In addition, trees help to block sunrays that usually dry up the moist forest soils. Moreover, plants help in the maintenance of the water succession since they take back moisture into the environment.
In the absence of trees, much of the initially fertile forestlands may soon become unfertile and barren. Efforts that are aimed at curtailing deforestation are bound to result in much lower global emissions. There is a need for a careful management of forest resources through the curtailing of tree cutting and/or introduction of initiatives that help in the integration of forest resources with economic activities in a way that ensures implementation of the strategies to protect the forests.
As highlighted in the paper, global warming is a major issue whose causes are altering life on planet earth. The effects of global warming are influencing the Arctic region severely. The pace at which heating is being witnessed has been going up for more than 30 years. The general rise in global temperatures has led to the melting of Arctic ice that has had a number of effects on the Arctic region. The melting of ice has reduced the reflective ability of the Arctic surfaces to the extent of leading to greater warming since much of the energy is absorbed instead of being reflected back.
Animal and plant life have also been affected by the changes. Some plant species are being phased out in favor of those that are able to adapt the observed changes. Human and animal life has also been disrupted to some extent. It is important for such disruptions to be stopped. This finding calls for concerted efforts that are aimed at protecting the way of life at the Arctic. Various highlighted solutions need to be implemented to help in curtailing global warming and its harmful effects.
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