Coping with Climate Change
Natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, droughts, and volcanic eruptions are found more and more in the news these days. Every year they are responsible for many deaths and serious injuries and they destroy livelihoods and damage economies. Scientists predict that climate change will affect the frequency and severity of some natural disasters like hurricanes, typhoons, and flooding.
Earthquakes do occur at the boundaries between tectonic plates because of plate motions. Understanding why plates change direction and speed is key to unlocking huge seismic events such as the famous Japan earthquake, which shifted the Earth’s axis by several inches, or February’s New Zealand quake. Scientists have for the first time shown a link between intensifying climate events and tectonic plate movement in findings that could provide a valuable insight into why huge tremors occur. Tectonic movements influence climate by creating new mountains and sea trenches and vice versa also. The closure or opening of new ocean basins or the build up of large mountain bands like the Andes or Tibet, those are geological processes that affect the pattern of climate.
Sea Level Still On The Rise
Global sea level rose by 1-2cm a decade on average during the 20th century. Sea level is predicted to rise 10-90cm this century. The main cause of sea level rise is thermal expansion of the oceans due to numerous floods, melting glaciers and ice sheets.
Cracked earth and river beds signal the onset of drought. In developing countries, crop failure and untold human suffering usually follows. Worldwide ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1990. Computer models predict that some regions of Africa will become drier in the future. Improved seasonal weather forecasting can prepare communities for drought, helping to mitigate its effects.
Landslides kill and injure many people throughout the world every year. The main causes of landslides are very well understood, they include erosion, deforestation, and saturated soil. Some storms with heavy rainfall also cause landslides.
All above mentioned natural disasters are mainly due to change in balanced natural temperature. Currently, many different types of observations indicate that average temperatures at many locations around the world are increasing:
- As of 2009, carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have ever been for over half of a million years.
- Most glaciers around the world are rapidly retreating, from Africa to Alaska.
- Sea ice cover has decreased substantially in the Arctic Ocean.
- Migratory bird nesting and breeding patterns have shifted dramatically.
- Lakes are freezing later in the winter and thawing earlier in the spring around the world.
- More record high temperatures have been recorded in the last decade than any other time in history.
- Weather stations have recorded significant increases in average annual temperatures at several locations around the world.
- Hurricane intensity appears to be increasing in the Atlantic Ocean, possibly the result of the availability of additional heat energy.
- Permafrost in the northern tundra regions is melting.
Coping with Climate Change
Human activities are greatly accelerating natural climate change. In this case, preventive medicine is the best kind of medicine; curbing the activities that are likely contributing the most to climate change, such as fossil fuel burning, may eventually decrease the rate and extent of climate change. Coping with climate change is something that human beings will have to learn to do, as we face increase disasters and changing climate systems around the world.
Implementing renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and high-efficiency automobiles (such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius) are important steps towards reducing fossil fuel emissions.
Building cities that emphasize walking, biking, and mass transportation can reduce fuel consumption and improve physical health.
These steps work to improve the quality of the air that we breathe and decrease our dependency on fossil fuels, which are non-renewable resources with dwindling supplies.
If the negative side effects of climate change are minimized, then all natural disasters should reduce over time.
Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Philippe 2009 on Flickr
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