There’s more to climate change than warmer summers and winters.
In the Pacific Ocean, the entire nation of Kiribati is facing a threat that has become all too common among the inhabitants of islands, archipelagos, and the like across the globe. Although this common threat is to be feared greatly, it is not terrorism or a military coup. This great threat is sea level rise and it is but one of the many effects of climate change that have become all too familiar for the inhabitants of many of the Earth’s once beautiful and lush islands.
But sea level rise is just the beginning. According to an article by The Guardian, carbon emission is at its highest point in 300 million years. As a result of the increased emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the Earth’s climate has changed significantly – a change which has resulted in undesirable effects such as sea level rise and ocean acidification.
Many Americans think the effects of climate change (or global warming to many) will not be felt for many years and is a problem best left for future generations to handle. However, the effects of climate change can be felt right now, bringing more than just hot summers and warm winters. In fact, sea level rise and ocean acidification may be two of the biggest contributors to a problem that many agree is facing the world at present: global food security.
Ocean acidification and sea level rise dramatically affect the ability of the Earth’s many islanders to sustain the livelihood of the families who rely on the islands’ resources for survival. For instance, sea level rise has already caused significant damage to many island villages across the globe. A rise in sea level raises high water marks, and these increased high water marks have resulted in higher tides. These higher tides often destroy crops and contaminate drinking water, leaving many islanders with no choice but to seek refuge on the mainland once the sea level reaches a critical level.
While the effects of ocean acidification are less significant than that of sea level rise, there is strong evidence the current level of carbon emissions will likely soon begin to affect marine life. Currently, acidification damages coral reefs, which are vital to the health of fisheries, acting as a nursery to young fish and smaller species that provide food for bigger fish. Acidification also harms plankton, which fish rely on for development. Since further and more extensive acidification is inevitable at current emission rates, it is likely that those who rely on marine life as a significant source of food will be greatly affected in the coming years.
A rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide can also affect the availability of food on the mainland of several continents, not just on islands. For instance, a study by Rosenzweig and Parry suggests that crop yields in Africa and South America may decrease as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere become greater.
Although reducing emissions will not have an immediate impact on climate change, if the process does not begin now, the livelihood of many islanders is almost guaranteed to worsen. Due to the significant effects the changing climate can have on feeding the world’s hungry, it is important to ensure that climate change legislation is pursued with as equal vigor as foreign aid legislation. Advocates of global food security should support climate change legislation by indicating so when calling their Congressional leaders to support international aid. Addressing climate change is a very slow and complicated process, but supporting climate change legislation can help protect the food security of many of the Earth’s inhabitants in the long term.
– Cavarrio Carter