The melting of the polar ice caps and global warming are getting more and more attention lately. Scientists are warning with increasing alarm of the rate at which these ice caps are dissolving into the oceans surrounding them. It has been estimated that the summer polar ice caps have been reduced by as much as forty-three percent from what they were. It is has also been estimated that in thirty years the ice caps could be completely gone. There are numerous effects of polar ice caps melting that scientists fear will cause catastrophic changes to the ecosystem.
Some of the effects of polar ice caps melting include rising sea levels. Rising sea levels would lead to migration from low-lying areas of the planet to areas higher above sea level, which would result in more competition for food and resources in those areas. Another of the effects of polar ice caps melting is the general warming of the planet. This could result in the loss of diversity among plant and animal life and in the spread of tropical diseases. These are just a few of the concerns that scientists have regarding the melting of the polar ice caps and global warming.
There are many causes of the melting of the polar ice caps and global warming, some of which are natural. However, the activities of man are responsible for much of the rapid change that scientists are seeing. Humankind engages in a multitude of activities that have accelerated the process of global warming. Some of the most damaging to the environment are listed below.
Most people know that the man-made activity that has been cited as a major accelerator of global warming is the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum. Industrial processes and the operation of personal motor vehicles all release various emissions into the air, including carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and lead, which turn to carbon dioxide. Mining activities also release methane into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas that leads to a warming planet.
The overpopulation of the planet is another activity that has accelerated global warming. More people on the planet means there are greater energy requirements, more transportation and increased need for food. Because of the need for cheap goods due to the amount of people on the planet, plastic goods have been constructed, which are not biodegradable. More people also means more cars and more carbon emissions moving into the air. The more people there are, the more room needs to be made for the world’s population, which leads to expansion into wild, natural areas, like forests, which protect the planet’s delicate balance.
One of the least well-known causes of global warming is deforestation. Because of man’s craving for space, lumber, and beef, many of the planet’s forests have been destroyed. Trees have been cut down to be used for construction, in order to clear room for new developments or houses, and to make room for cattle to graze in order to satisfy the demand for beef, especially in the United States. However, the forests around the planet have a protective purpose, because they produce oxygen that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When forests are slashed and burned, carbon emissions skyrocket. Both the act of burning these organic materials and the loss of the trees speed up global warming. Deforestation is a significant problem in the Amazon region, and in the tropical areas of Africa in the Congo Basin.
It is critical that we take action to stem the tide of the melting of the polar ice caps and global warming. According to some scientists, the human race only has a few years to turn the tide and avoid seeing the most catastrophic effects of polar ice caps melting. It is possible to do, but it may require changes and sacrifices from everyone.