WHAT OTHER EFFECT WILL GLOBAL WARMING HAVE?

1. How will wildlife be affected?

2. How will this affect human disease incidence?

3. What sources might you use to find the best data to answer these questions? What measurements could be used to obtain the answers?

1) Wildlife

Climate change will affect plants and animals. A number of amphibian species have become extinct because of diseases which have spread in the aftermath of climate change. Global warming poses a threat to earth’s biodiversity (Pounds, 2006).Climate change poses a serious threat to biodiversity. Models have estimated that by 2050, between 15% and 37% of modern species will be “committed to extinction.” (Thomas, 2004). Warming temperatures affect the distribution of animals. As temperatures increase, species are exposed to new pathogens. Global warming has been implicated in the extinction of several species of amphibian (Pounds, 2006). Robins have extended their range to 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle (Blatt, 2005). Global warming seems to be responsible for earlier flowering dates of plants (including crops like wheat) in the U.S. (Hu, 2006). The decrease of Antarctic ice, combined with changing water temperatures, currents, and salinity are affecting marine life (Laidre, 2005). Global warming threatens to allow non-indigenous species to spread into new areas where they can increase at the expense of native plants and animals. The increase in maximum and minimum temperatures in an area seem to have a greater effect than increases in the annual average temperature (Stachowicz, 2002). The habitat change which would result from global warming would threaten many species with extinction (Hilbert, 2004). Even common species could experience significant decrease in range (Meynecke, 2004). Even the remotest parts of the arctic seem to be displaying effects caused by global warming such as earlier summers, the reduction of glaciers, a change in biological species, and thinning of sea ice (Smol, 2005).

When the temperature of water increases, less gas can be dissolved in it. Increased global temperatures will decrease the amount of oxygen which can be dissolved in the world's oceans (Keeling, 2002).

2) Disease

Global warming will affect human health through an increase in the incidence of disease. Global warming is likely to increase the incidence of infectious disease by increasing the abundance and geographic distribution of organisms which cause or carry disease, reducing availability of water in some regions, and causing economic and political problems which will reduce resources allocated to health care. Increases in extreme weather and changes in rainfall patterns are likely to disrupt agriculture, leading to malnutrition and disease susceptibility in many areas (Khasnis, 2005). Insect species (such as mosquito species which can carry diseases ranging from malaria to yellow fever) could spread to new latitudes and altitudes. Greater flooding caused by global warming will increase the spread of certain diseases such as cholera (Patz, 2002). Higher temperatures increase the growth of weeds, molds, and fungi which are contributing to the increase in asthma rates in children (Ault, 2004).

1. Wildlife are already under severe stress due to the global loss of habitats caused by human population growth. Given that plants and animals have adapted to local conditions which imply specific average temperatures, amounts of rainfall, the existence of parasites and competing species, etc., how will changing global temperatures affect wildlife? What organisms might be most vulnerable?

2. Are the countries which produce the most carbon dioxide likely to be the ones which are most affected by increased disease incidence? If you lived in a country which was most vulnerable to a disease (such as malaria) broadening its range, how would you view the responsibility of polluting nations to curb carbon dioxide emissions?

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