The open sea, the Arctic, and the Antarctic may seem distant in our daily lives.
But did you know that these areas are responsible for regulating the climate around the world? In fact, we significantly depend on them for food, water, transportation, and biodiversity.
Two weeks ago, the United Nations released a climate report that discussed the effects of climate change on these crucial areas of Earth: the ocean and the cryosphere (frozen parts of Earth, like snow, glaciers, and ice caps). Let’s see what they discovered.
Details of the Report
The report was written and released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It predicts the state of the Earth in 80 years if humans continue to disregard the impact of their actions on the environment. One of its major takeaways discusses the speed of climate change in the cryosphere.
According to scientists, there is a six-fold increase in Antarctic ice sheet loses this past year compared to 2018. A total of 670 million people in high mountain regions and 680 million people in low-lying coastal zones depend directly on these ecosystems to survive on a day to day basis. The melting of these glaciers reduces Earth’s resistance to heat and reduces the organisms in the Arctic ecosystem.
The earth’s cryosphere regulates the temperature of the planet and the amount of energy available in an ecosystem. The earth's radiation budget needs to remain balanced, meaning the amount of heat that comes in must be reflected off as well. If this does not happen there will be an increase or a drop in global temperature. Currently, the earth absorbs 70% of the heat from the sun and reflects 30%.
Additionally, the sea levels have risen an average of 5mm a year over the past five years, compared to 3.2mm a year on average since 1993. Increased sea levels cause flooding in many coastal areas and leave many families homeless.
Cause For Hope?
While an initial look at the climate report may paint a rather bleak picture for the future of our planet, the members of the IPCC convey the hope for a bright future if we take action.
The second section of the report looks at the impact of climate change if we intervene and consciously work to fight against it. Each of the graphs inside of the report has two lines, one red and one blue. The red line shows the sharp increase in ocean acidification and other calamities if we as humans do not do anything to solve climate change. A blue and relatively horizontal line shows how an intervention will save our planet by keeping the rates we see in 2019 constant.
So the next time you throw a party, try to use regular cups rather than plastic ones, or replace plastic straws with metal ones - because your small actions will add one more year to our planet's lifespan.
Sources: Axios, Washington Post, Space.com, UN.org, IPCC.ch, Carleton.edu