10 Signs Of How Our Planet Is Doing
Live Science takes a look at how we’re doing on the eve of the Copenhagen UN summit.
10. Arctic Meltdown
One recent study estimated that Arctic waters could be ice free during the summer in as few as 30 years, much sooner than previous estimates. Such catastrophic melt could reinforce the global warming trend and further imperil Arctic residents, from humans to narwhals and polar bears, which were first listed as an Endangered Species in May 2008.
9. Collapsing Antarctic Ice
In April, an ice bridge believed to pin the Wilkins Ice Shelf in place snapped. Wilkins is one of nine Antarctic ice shelves that have receded or collapsed in recent decades – the most dramatic collapses were those of the Larsen A and B shelves, which abruptly crumbled in 1995 and 2002, respectively. Most of the dramatic melting has occurred in the Antarctic Peninsula, the only part of the southernmost continent that juts north of the Antarctic Circle.
8. Ozone Hole Recovery
While it will still take some time for the ozone hole to recover, if countries hadn’t acted to ban ozone-destroying substances, the situation could have been much worse.
7. Ocean Dead Zone Expansion
For years now, so-called oceanic dead zones – pockets of the sea where oxygen is so depleted that many fish, crustaceans and other aquatic species can’t survive, such as in the Gulf of Mexico – have been a growing concern.
6. Corals in Crisis
Coral reefs, sometimes called the “rainforests of the ocean,” are critical marine habitats. But reefs from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef have been under pressure in recent decades from overfishing, pollution, disease, warming waters and ocean acidification…the outcome of the climate summit in Copenhagen, where great minds are hashing out ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions among other issues, will have implications for the survival of the world’s coral reefs.
5. Vanishing Forests
Forested areas, particularly rainforests, are key areas of biodiversity. They also absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, and so clearing such trees could boost greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, the rate of deforestation is about 32 million acres a year, or 36 football fields a minute.
4. Water Stress
It’s essential to life as we know it, and though the planet’s surface is two-thirds water, pollution is making it unsuitable for the humans who drink it and the animals that live in it. The effects of global warming are also altering the patterns of water availability for drinking and agriculture: Already arid regions will likely get drier, and rising sea levels could force salty sea water into normally freshwater aquifers.
3. Atmospheric Buildup
Some companies and nations have already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but many of these goals have not been met. That and the rapid pace of development in countries like China and India have kept levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases rising globally, and at a faster rate than in previous years…Many proposals for cap-and-trade systems, methods for trapping carbon dioxide emissions underground and alternative forms of energy have been put forward, but it’s up to governments and other groups to put them into action.
2. Animals in Peril
As wild lands are plowed over, built upon or otherwise altered, the animals and plants that dwell there also come under pressure. In fact, the 2009 Red List of Threatened Species issued by the World Conservation Union identified more than 17,000 species threatened with extinction out of the nearly 48,000 assessed.
Tigers, elephants, rhinos, and several species of primates are known victims of habitat change – and poaching – in Africa and Asia. Frog populations across the globe have been decimated by the spread of a deadly fungus. In the oceans, sharks, whales, dolphins and some species of fish are also hurting.
1. Humans Impacted
In 2007, the world population passed the 6 billion mark. That year also marked the first time in human history that more people were living in urban settings than rural areas. All 6 billion of us must compete for limited resources, including water, food and fuel. Some scientists say that we have already reached the limits of what our planet can support and that we need to curb population growth for the health of our species and the planet.Click here for reuse options!
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