Archive by Author | christinel0017

Climate Change Doesn’t Just Affect the Climate…

Climate change- what does that word bring to mind? Most of you will say melting ice, drowning polar bears, and higher temperatures. However, the consequences of global warming go farther than weather. In fact, according to an article in National Geographic, the consequences of climate change even affect… Coffee! Studies show that Wild Arabica coffee could go extinct in 70 years. Thankfully, the coffee most of us drink is made from the cultivated descendants of Wild Arabica. However, the loss of the wild species would leave its cultivated descendants genetically vulnerable to many enemies, which could potentially cause coffee’s quality to drop and have it’s price raise. According to the International Coffee Organization, Arabica is a big part of the coffee industry, accounting for 70% of all global production.

In a world that drinks 1.6 billion cups each day, the prospect probably gives a lot of us the jitters. But a new study led by London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, warns that, thanks to climate change, the most consumed coffee species, Arabica, could be extinct in the wild by 2080.

Aaron Davis, head of RGB Kew’s coffee research program, led a study that combined field observations and computer modeling to predict how different climate situations could affect the Wild Arabica.The study focused on the origin of cultivated Arabica, Ethiopia, as well as parts of South Sudan. The results of their study was, needless to say, not too good.

The prospects are “profoundly negative,” the study concluded. Even in a best-case scenario, two-thirds of the suitable growing locations would disappear by 2080—and at worst, nearly 100 percent. And that’s factoring in only climate change, not deforestation.

Davis and other researchers visited South Sudan’s Boma Plateau in April, intending to assess the feasibility of coffee production there. Instead, they discovered wild Arabica plants in extremely poor health.

“After a week or so in those forests, we realized that our objective had changed: It became a rescue mission,” Davis said.

The average annual temperature in Eithopia has risen by 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1960. Both wild and cultivated Arabica are very climate sensitive. Studies show that Arabica can only survive in a very small climate range. Coffee is the second most traded global commodity after oil, and the industry employs about 26 million people according to the International Coffee Organization. If the Wild Arabica coffee plant becomes extinct, the whole coffee industry would greatly suffer. So if coffee is an essential part of your life, better stock up now before it’s gone!

Coffee is harvested in Colombia.

Photograph by Jose Miguel Gomez, Reuters


Ice is Nice!

The Arctic ice may be shrinking faster than ever, but is the Antarctic ice growing? Even though the Arctic ice may be melting, the Antarctic seems to be gaining more ice. In late September, satellite data showed the vast change of sea ice in Antarctica. Antartica was actually surrounded by the largest amount of sea ice ever recorded. The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that the Antarctic had increased by 1% since last year, resulting in a total area of 7.51 million square miles. Even though 1% may not seem that significant, it is better that the Antarctic is slowly gaining ice rather than losing ice. The ice that the Antarctic is gaining doesn’t seem to fit in with the massive loss of ice the Arctic has sustained.  How can the Antarctic be gaining ice in a world where Arctic ice is quickly melting because of the rising temperatures and higher CO2 levels? Eric Rignot, a NASA researcher and earth systems professor at UC Irvine has an answer to this puzzling question.

If the world was warming up uniformly, you would expect the sea ice cover to decrease in the Antarctic, but it’s not. The reason for that is because the Antarctic is cooler than the rest of the world. It’s warming up as well but not as fast as other places.

So you have the warming world and a cold Antarctica, and the difference between the two is increasing. That makes the winds around Antarctica move a little bit faster. There’s also a difference that comes from the depletion of ozone in the stratosphere in the Antarctic, which makes the stratosphere colder.

That’s the leading explanation for what we’re seeing in the Antarctic, but you have to acknowledge that the effect is very small.

If the Antarctic Ice is in fact increasing, then why is the Arctic ice melting? Antarctica is it’s own continent and is separated from the rest of the world by a large amount of water and wind, therefore the climate and temperature are a little different from the Arctic. The Arctic is more closely connected to the rest of the world and closer to countries with large CO2 emissions while Antarctica is it’s own continent separated from the rest of the world by freezing waters and chilly winds.

So with the Antarctic ice growing, does this mean that global warming isn’t happening? The answer is no. As you can see from the scientific quote above, the Antarctic just happens to be colder than global warming currently therefore making it increase ice area. Global warming is still happening even though the Antarctic is gaining ice. Even with the worrisome loss of Arctic ice, at least the Antarctic ice has increased in the past year and shows us that ice really is nice!

A map of Antarctic sea ice.

Sea ice extent around Antarctica on September 26. Yellow line shows median September sea ice extent from 1979 to 2000.

Illustration courtesy Jesse Allen, EO/NASA/NSIDC

No More Ice?

What if the world no longer had an Arctic ice cap? Well, that might be the case in 50 years. The National Geographic article “Arctic Sea Ice Hits Record Low- Extreme Weather to Come?”   shows us how much ice we have left.

“Arctic sea ice is thawing at a historic rate, scientists say. In fact, a recent analysis of satellite data “utterly obliterates” the previous record, set in 2007.”

This quote is saying how the Arctic ice has shrunk from 2.7 million miles in the 1970s and 80s to 1.58 million square miles in the present day. That is close to 1 million miles of ice lost in the last 40 years. If the ice keeps on shrinking in the future as much as it has, then we will be in lots of trouble. The image below shows how munch the ice has melted, the yellow line represents the ice border that was there in 1970s/80s and the solid white area represents the place where the ice is today (2012).

An illustration shows the extent of Arctic sea ice.

Illustration courtesy SVS/NASA Link to photo’s website

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Who Turned on the Lights?

After watching the movie An Inconvenient Truth with Al Gore I feel as if someone “turned on the lights” and helped me see what was happening with our planet. In this movie, Mr. Gore presents facts about global warming and charts that showed  how the CO2 content in the Earth’s atmosphere keeps rising, therefore making the Earth’s temperature rise. The CO2 content in our atmosphere is not suppose to rise over 350 parts per million. However since 2010, the CO2 content has risen to over 390 parts per million. If we don’t take action to lower to CO2 content, the CO2 content will keep rising and heating up the planet, just as it has over the last couple years.

Before I watched this movie and researched the facts, I didn’t know much about global warming. I was living in a lightless world, without seeing what we are doing to our planet. I was oblivious to the fact that the CO2 levels were rising and the temperature was slowly getting hotter. After seeing the charts that show the drastic rise in both CO2 and temperature over the last couple years, I feel that I am now aware of this scary situation. If we keep on polluting our Earth and the CO2 remains trapped in our atmosphere, not only will the temperature keep getting hotter, but also the ice in the South and North Poles will break off and melt. The more ice that breaks off not only causes the water level to rise, flooding many places, but also endangers polar bears and other animals that make their home on the ice. With less ice, there will be less habitat, and the numbers of these animals will shrink, possibly even wiping out a species that relies on the ice for a home.

With these facts at mind, I would think that most of the general public would be very, if not extremely, concerned about global warming. However, according to a report by Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in March 2012 from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 46% of the general public either is not very worried about global warming, or not at all worried. While that might not be a giant number, it is almost half of the general public who answered this poll. We all need to be mindful of our environment and spread what we know about global warming. Perhaps with more people knowing the consequences and dangers of global warming, the more they would do to try to help out. There are really so many consequences to global warming, and if we all don’t do something very soon, some of these consequences might be irreversible.