Global warming is a worldwide phenomenon, and although some areas will be impacted to a greater degree than others, effects will be felt everywhere. Each diverse and unique ecosystem will experience changes to its environment. Some areas are already feeling the effects of global warming, others may not feel them for a while. The following list outlines some of the changes occurring today:
• The Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica has lost volume as large chunks (one was as large as the entire state of Rhode Island) have broken off the continent and melted.
• The surface area of Arctic sea ice has declined 8 percent over the past few decades.
• Plants and animals are already changing their habitat ranges, moving to new areas in order to survive.
• Significant increases in ocean temperatures have been measured and documented over the past five decades.
• Mount Kilimanjaro's glacier, which has existed for more than 11,000 years, will disappear by 2020 if the present rates of melting continue.
• Siberian peat lands are beginning to thaw. They are now releasing stored carbon dioxide and methane gases into the atmosphere, both of which are significant greenhouse gases.
These present changes, in turn, could have some of the following effects in the not-so-far-off future:
• Sea level could rise 7-23 inches (18-50 cm) by 2100.
• More than 1 million species face extinction from disappearing
• Arctic ice is quickly disappearing. The Arctic could be ice-free by 2040.
• Ocean corals are being hit hard. Some areas are seeing 70 percent mortality rates.
The polar regions are expected to be impacted to the largest degree. Because polar areas are so sensitive to climate change, they also serve as an early warning signal for the rest of the world.
(Source: National Geographic, Union of Concerned Scientists)
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