The Science:
The Risks to Living Organisms

Climate Change and Agriculture:

  • Despite claims that global warming will usher in the "greening of the Earth", it is hard to envision how the rapid destabilization of the Earth's climate, with increased risks of drought, floods, and insect infestation, can be anything but bad for world agriculture.
  • Climate change will have a varied and uneven impact on world agriculture and global food supplies over the next 20-30 years. Longer growing seasons, warmer temperatures, and increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations may provide some modest temporary benefits to Northern temperate regions in countries like Russia , Canada , and the United States . However, these comparatively small benefits amount to little more than single digit percentage increases similar to yearly crop variability.
  • Meanwhile many, many more human beings will not be so fortunate. In the lower latitudes, already impoverished subsistence farming communities, particularly those in increasingly arid regions, will see significant drops in crop yields and will experience increased risks of hunger.
  • Unless global warming is slowed, within the next two decades, tens of millions of human beings will be facing chronic malnutrition, making the rosy predictions about the "benefits" of global warming ring more than a little hollow.

Pests And Vector Borne Diseases:

  • Conditions created by global warming including warmer temperatures, milder winters, excessive rains, and drought provide fertile breeding grounds for pests.
  • Insect populations are extremely sensitive to temperature changes and even a slight increase in temperatures can result in an explosion of pest-borne diseases including malaria, West Nile virus, yellow fever, cholera, dengue fever, hanta virus, and bubonic plague.
  • As the world continues to warm and pests like the culex mosquito migrate from Southern regions, residents of the Northern Hemisphere will increasingly be experiencing diseases like West Nile Virus and malaria that had previously been confined primarily to the tropics.
  • By providing a hospitable environment for rodents and mosquitoes, climate change played a major role in outbreaks of the deadly hantavirus in New Mexico since 1993, as well as in the epidemic of dengue fever in 2002 that afflicted over 18,000 people in Cuba , Northern Venezuela, and Brazil.
  • Worldwide, rising temperatures are causing an explosion of the pest population and many regions have experienced large increases in insect-related crop damage further diminishing the global food supply.
  • Forests, too, are suffering pest problems. In Alaska 's Kenai Peninsula alone, over 38 million trees have fallen victim to an infestation by the spruce bark beetle. Like many other pests, this beetle species had always been present in the environment, but the changing climate provides an environment that allows the pests to thrive and thereby killing the trees. Where before Nature had struck a balance between these two species, global warming had tipped the scales in favor of the pests, at the expense of the trees. A similar spruce bark beetle infestation in Southern California has killed over a million trees and was a major factor in the massive wildfires in October, 2003.

Threats to Biodiversity:

  • As the planet continues to warm, many species are unable to adapt to the rapidly changing environment.
  • As just one example, in the El Nino year of 1998 thousands of sea lions, seals, and seal pups washed up on the beaches of Northern California, dying of starvation. Ocean temperatures had warmed so much that the fish these mammals normally eat had been driven to deeper, cooler levels—levels deeper than the seals and sea lions were able to swim. Of the 2,000 northern fur seals that had been born at a San Miguel Island research facility that spring and summer, 1,500 died by Oct. 1.
  • Global warming induced climate change constitutes a major threat to biodiversity on Earth. As the climate changes, entire ecosystems will be destroyed and many plants and animals will become extinct, forever wiped off the face of the planet.
  • To compensate for warmer temperatures, plant species in many parts of the world will need to migrate between .9 and 3.4 miles per year in order to survive. Many plant species will be completely unable to make this sort of migration, particularly trees because of their longevity. How is a stand of ancient redwood trees going to migrate at all? Let alone 3.4 miles per year.
  • As global warming worsens, many animal species will simply have nowhere to go. Where can these species be expected to migrate to, except maybe the zoo?

Global Warming Threatens The Survival of Coral Reefs:

  • Coral reefs are home to nearly 25 percent of all marine life—they are the tropical rain forests of the ocean, providing food, shelter, and breeding grounds for over a million species of plants and sea creatures. When reefs disappear, so too do the fish.
  • Coral reefs are dying worldwide as warmer temperatures cause the coral to bleach by releasing the symbiotic algae that gives coral its amazing color.
  • Over 90% of the coral reefs in the central Indian Ocean have already died from bleaching due to warming temperatures.
  • Environmental organizations estimate that Australia 's Great Barrier reef will be dead within 30 years if current greenhouse gas emissions persist.
  • The Global Coral Reef Alliance predicts catastrophic biodiversity declines for over 100 countries if the decline of coral reefs is not halted.
  • Coral reefs even supply the National Cancer Institute with compounds now being tested as potential cancer fighting agents. If global warming is allowed to continue, will a possible cure for cancer disappear along with the reefs?

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