According to the World Resources Institute, because of historic land use and settlement, Europe's natural ecosystems are highly disturbed and fragmented. Therefore, they are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of global warming. During this past century, for example, most of Europe experienced temperature increases that were larger than the global average. In addition, precipitation increased in the north but decreased in the south.
The mountainous regions are providing documentable evidence of global warming. Pronounced evidence is seen in the visible, widespread retreat of mountain glaciers in the Alps. Multiple plant and animal species are migrating northward in latitude and upward in elevation on mountains. Many are also changing the timing of their activities to coincide with the earlier arrival of warm springlike temperatures. One of the major downfalls in this region is that the landscape is so fragmented; the less adaptive species may not be able to fully adapt, putting their existence in peril.
The expansive Asian region includes a wide range of climate regimes. Its polar, temperate, and tropical climates provide a home to more than 3 billion people. Major effects of global warming include the melting of mountain glaciers such as those in the Himalayas (including Mount Everest). Permafrost regions are expected to thaw, such as those in Siberia; and northern forests are expected to shift even farther northward. A major factor in the future of this area is that both China and India are becoming rapidly industrialized. As they continue to modernize and use increasing amounts of fossil fuels, adding to greenhouse gas emissions, if regulations are not put in place to control emissions and pollution, the negative effects will accelerate the damage from global warming, thereby enhancing climate change.
According to a report in National Geographic News in June 2002, a team sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found signs that the landscape of Mount Everest had changed significantly since the mountain was first successfully climbed in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Today, the same glacier that once came close to Hillary and Norgay's first camp has retreated 3 miles (5 km). A series of ponds that used to be near Island Peak has merged into one long lake.
Roger Payne, a sports and development director at the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation and one of the expedition's leaders, reported: "It is clear that global warming is emerging as one, if not the, biggest threat to mountain areas. The evidence of climate change was all around us, from huge scars gouged in the landscapes by sudden, glacial floods to the lakes swollen by melting glaciers. But it is the observations of some of the people we met, many of whom have lived in the area all their lives, that really hit home."
Tashi Janghu Sherpa of the Nepal Mountain Association said he "had seen quite rapid and significant changes over the past 20 years in the ice fields and that these changes appeared to be accelerating."
In addition, according to the United Nations, dozens of mountain lakes in Nepal and Bhutan are so swollen from melting glaciers that they could burst in the next few years and devastate many Himalayan villages, presenting yet another negative effect of global warming. A team of scientists from the United Nations Environment Program and remote-sensing experts from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development in Katmandu, Nepal, determined that in the next five years or so, the Himalayas could experience intense flooding as mountain lakes overflow with water from melting glaciers and snowfields. As reported in National Geographic News on May 7, 2002, the lives of tens of thousands of people who live high in the mountains and in downstream communities could be at severe risk as the mud walls of the lakes collapse under the pressure of the extra water. Major loss of land and other property would aggravate poverty and hardship in the region.
According to Surendra Shrestha, the Asian regional coordinator of the UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment, "Our findings indicate that 20 glacial lakes in Nepal and 24 in Bhutan have become potentially dangerous as a result of climate change." She also points out that those are the lakes the UNEP studied. The unknown factor could be even worse; there could be lakes not yet identified that are even more dangerous and unstable.
Based on data from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense, National Environmental Trust, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund, the following list portrays some of the current effects of global warming in Europe, Russia, and Asia:
• Central England: Cold days are declining; hot days are increasing. In 1772, there were an average of four days a year of temperatures above 68°F (20°C); in 1995, there were 26 days.
• Caucasus Mountains, Russia: Half of all the glacial ice has disappeared in the last 100 years.
• Austria: This area has experienced record glacial retreat. The glacial ice is more reduced today than it has been over the past 5,000 years.
• Spain: Half of the glaciers in existence in 1980 are now melted.
• Southeast Europe and the Middle East: These areas have experienced widespread heat waves. Temperatures climbed as high as 111°F (43.8°C) in Turkey, Greece, Romania, Italy, and Bulgaria. In Bulgaria alone, the 100-year records for daily maximum temperature have been broken at more than 75 percent of the observing stations. In Armenia, 2000 was the hottest summer of the century. Continental Europe warmed 1.4°F (0.8°C) during the past century, with the last decade the hottest on record.
• Greenland: There has been rapid thinning of the Greenland ice sheet in coastal areas, especially of the outlet glaciers, documented during the 1990s. The coastal land ice loss is from a combination of increased melting during warmer summers, high snow accumulation rates feeding the outlet glaciers, and increased rates of melting at the bottom of glaciers due to ocean warming.
• United Kingdom: Toads, frogs, and newts are spawning nine to 10 days earlier now. From 1971 to 1995, 31 percent of 65 bird species studied showed significant trends toward earlier egg laying, moving up the date by an average of 8.8 days. Oak trees are leafing out earlier. Over a 20-year period, many birds have extended the northern margins of their ranges by an average of about 12 miles (19 km).
• Austria: Over a 70- to 90-year period, alpine plants in the Alps moved higher up mountain slopes in response to an increase in average annual temperature.
• Mediterranean: This area has experienced intense drought and fires.
• Europe: A study of European plants from 1959 to 1993 shows that spring events (such as flowering) have advanced six days and autumn events (such as the changing of leaf colors) have been delayed about five days. This is in response to Europe warming
1.4°F (0.8°C) over the past century. The growing season is also starting about eight days earlier.
• Southeastern Norway: The year 2000 was the wettest year on record. Precipitation in northern Europe has increased 10 to 40 percent in the last century.
• Samos Island, Greece: Fires caused by dry, droughtlike conditions and record-breaking heat burned one-fifth of the island in July 2000. Temperatures climbed to 104°F (40°C) in some areas.
• Llasa, Tibet: June 1998 was the warmest month on record. Temperatures were above 77°F (25°C) for 23 days.
• Garhwal Himalayas, India: The Dokriani Barnak Glacier retreated 66 feet (20.1 m) in 1998, even though the region experienced a severe winter. The Gangorti Glacier is retreating 98 feet (30 m) per year. At this rate, scientists predict the loss of all central and eastern Himalayan glaciers by 2035.
• Southern India: A massive heat wave occurred in May 2002, when temperatures rose to 120°F (49°C), resulting in the highest one-week death toll on record.
• Tibet: Ice core records from the Dasuopu Glacier indicate that the last decade and last 50 years have been the warmest in 1,000 years.
• Mongolia: A 1,738-year tree-ring record from remote alpine forests in the Tarvagatay Mountains indicates that 20th-century temperatures in this region are the warmest of the last millennium.
• Chokoria Sundarbans, Bangladesh: Rising ocean levels have flooded about 18,550 acres (7,500 hectares) of mangrove forest during the past three decades.
• Bhutan: As Himalayan glaciers melt, glacial lakes are swelling and in danger of catastrophic flooding.
• India: Glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating at an average rate of 50 feet (15 m) per year. The Khumbu Glacier, a popular climbing route to the summit of Mt. Everest, has retreated more than three miles (5 km) since 1953.
• Siberia: Large expanses of tundra permafrost are melting. In some regions, the rate of thawing of the upper ground is nearly 8 inches (20 cm) per year. Thawing permafrost has already damaged more than 300 buildings in the cities of Norilsk and Yakutsk.
The effects of global warming are already being felt worldwide. Many peoples' livelihoods are being affected by changes in rainfall patterns and seasonal shifts in temperature, such as earlier spring warm up or longer, drier summers. Those who spend their days outside in the agricultural and horticultural industries, in forestry capacities or vineyards or ranching, have already witnessed firsthand the effects of global warming. Their accounts reflect similar incidences in other parts of the world and are a preview of more to come.
Giuseppe Miranti from Piacenza, Italy, is the owner of a bioagricultural company called Aziende Agricole Miranti, where he produces fruit and vegetables as well as organic cereal and livestock farming. He is also a beekeeper. He serves as the "Italian Climate Witness" for the World Wildlife Fund. He has already experienced negative impacts from global warming, and he cautions that global warming is a reality—its impacts are visible all over Italy and the rest of Europe.
The cultivation of honey has changed. Due to warmer temperatures, flowers are blooming at unusual times, which makes the bees change their behavior. As a result, the level of activity has slowed down. The biological cycle of bee parasites is another serious problem. The parasites live longer and are more persistent because of the warmer climate. This has a negative impact on the bee population and honey production.
Over time, bees have been able to change to natural changes in the environment, but Giuseppe is now concerned that the bees will not be able to adapt fully to man-made climate change. Because of the concern that bees may not be able to adapt to humans' drastic altering of the natural environment, beekeepers are currently testing new products and methods, adjusting the nutrition in order to ensure that bees are in good condition when the flowers start blooming.
Italy is facing several physical factors as a result of global warming: A heat wave in 2003 caused 20,000 people to die. Almost 2,000 forest fires were reported during the same summer, and drought-related agricultural
damage cost around 5 billion euros. In 2005, the country experienced another heat wave and severe drought. The Italian government warned that 1 million people were at serious health risk when temperatures reached 40°F (4.4°C). Since 1996, Italy has also become drier. Rainy days have decreased 14 percent, but thunderstorms have actually become more intense.
Georg Sperber has been a forester for 30 years in the rich, lush forests of Germany. He says, "The forests I have worked in have changed over these years. Especially in the past 20 years. I have seen changes that were remarkable in their nature and intensity. I believe climate change is the main reason. You hear a lot about global warming in the media, but out there in the woods you can feel the difference, even without knowing the alarming facts of climate science. The 1990s have been the warmest decade in climate history, and this was obvious to anyone who lives in touch with nature. In my forests, the consequences for spruce trees are especially dramatic. Spruce is the backbone of the German forest industry, covering 28 percent of Germany's forests. However, higher average temperatures and more frequent droughts due to climate change weaken these trees.
"They are under attack from bark beetle populations, which have massively increased because of the warming. And over past years storms—worse in intensity due to climate change—have wreaked havoc on spruce forests. Rainfall patterns have also changed significantly. Rainfall used to peak in spring and early summer when the plants needed the extra water most. But since the 1990s, this peak has moved to autumn.
"Climate change is the biggest challenge mankind is facing. Currently we are about to put a huge burden on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren. We are absolutely aware that we are doing it, but we know that we shouldn't be doing it."
Source: World Wildlife Fund
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