Environmental Impacts: Intro
This month, we will be taking a look at some of the environmental impacts of carbon pollution. Through our carbon emissions, we have such a strong effect on the environment, and we hope that this small preview into a couple of the main climate issues will truly resonate with you, our readers.
In order to easily calculate your environmental impact, you can go to this website: https://www.onoraglobal.com/get-started. With Onora Global, you can also learn ways to reduce your environmental impact as well as fund verified climate repair projects that work to restore the planet.
Learn more about each of the projects here!
We’d also like to encourage all the youth to take a look around this month. Where do you see areas for improvement in your school, town, or extracurricular activities in terms of environmental impact? We’ve come up with a five-step process to help you all pursue climate projects of your own.
Step 1: Pick an area to look into and spend time researching the topic.
- Water: drinking water, sprinklers for the grass, plumbing
- Waste: recycling/compost/trash bins, what is often thrown away, littering, etc.
- Energy: heat in the winter, A/C in the summer, lighting systems, charging outlets, etc.
- Food: at home, at school, packaging, local vs. non local, red meats, etc.
- Travel: car, plane, train, bike, etc
- Consumer products: clothing (fast fashion), electronics, notebooks, etc.
Step 2: Consider at least 1 benefit or positive effect of the current state of the area that you picked. In other words, if someone were to make a change in this area, what should you not lose sight of? (i.e. in the process of improving food at school, we can’t lose sight of the fact that you appreciate how easy it is to grab a quick snack in between classes)
Step 3: Have an open discussion with someone local who is involved in organizing whichever topic you chose to look into. Consider what you could ask them about how it works in your area, the impact it is having on the people carrying out any related tasks and all other local people, and the impact it is having on the environment.
Step 4: Continue researching your topic on a local level. What can be changed to improve the climate impacts? How will you implement this? Who else will you need help from?
Step 5: Reach out to the person involved in organizing the topic and propose your solution! Be sure to detail your plan for implementation.
~ IAGB Youth Editorial Director, Aarushi Pant
MELTING ICE CAPS
Melting ice caps is a significant issue because ice is vital for our world. Ice, in general, acts as a protective shield for the Earth and its oceans. Excess heat is reflected back into space by them, keeping the Earth cold. Because more heat from the sun is bounced off the ice and back into space, the Arctic remains cooler than the equator in theory.
In addition to taking away the habitats of walruses and polar bears, melting glaciers also contribute to rising sea levels, which increases coastal erosion and leads to more intense and frequent storms such as hurricanes and typhoons as well as an increase in flooding in coastal areas. This in turn leads to expensive disaster recovery costs.
Glaciers in particular provide scientists with a record of how climate has changed over time. Glacial ice covers around 10% of the Earth’s geographical surface now. Nearly 90% of it is in Antarctica, with the remaining 10% in the Greenland ice cap. Ocean currents are influenced by rapid glacial melt in Antarctica and Greenland when vast amounts of frigid glacial-melt water join warmer ocean waters, slowing ocean currents. Sea levels will continue to increase as land ice melts.
Many glaciers throughout the world have been melting quickly since the early 1900s. Human actions cause this phenomenon. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have elevated temperatures since the industrial revolution, even higher in the poles, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea, and retreating on land.
What can we do? Even if we dramatically reduce emissions over the next several decades, more than a third of the world’s remaining glaciers will melt by 2100. When it comes to sea ice, 95 percent of the Arctic’s oldest and thickest ice has already disappeared. Furthermore, scientists predict that if emissions continue to rise uncontrollably, the Arctic might be ice-free in the summer as early as 2040, owing to rising ocean and air temperatures.
This is a significant problem in our world right now, so it is crucial that we all unite to take action before it is too late!
-IAGB Youth Member, Tanushree Nekenti
Heat Waves and Droughts
As we get closer and closer to summer, I’m sure we all can’t wait for grueling hot days during a heat wave where the air conditioning doesn’t work, and towns advising us not to wash cars or water lawns frequently to save water while in a drought. Not all of summer is like this, but it might be if carbon emission levels continue to increase. Especially in Southwest America and in the Great Plains, Nasa reports that there is an 80 percent likelihood of a decades-long megadrought in future years. This leads to reduced soil moisture, ultimately causing a decrease in agriculture.
Unfortunately, carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses contribute to the likelihood of having droughts and heat waves in the United States. Shown below are the predicted soil moisture distributions of North America in 70 years. On the left is a projection if we reduce current emissions, and on the right is the projection if we continue to increase emissions every year as we are now.
But firstly, what is classified as a drought and heat wave?
Heat waves can be classified as a series of unusually hot days, and can cause agricultural loss, wildfires, and droughts. A drought is a period of time when an area or region receives below normal precipitation. Droughts can last as short as 15 days, or decades as it’s hard to pinpoint when a drought has started or ended. The effects of a drought may take months or years to actually affect wildlife, vegetation, or people, thus causing the vagueness.
Increased carbon emissions contribute to longer heat waves and drought periods. As carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses heat up the planet, more water evaporates into the atmosphere, which in turn raises the temperature further and decreases the amount of groundwater used for agriculture and human consumption. Additionally, when more carbon is present in the atmosphere, the atmosphere is able to trap more heat in, resulting in higher temperatures. The effects of carbon emissions can already be seen all across the country. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average number of heat waves that occurred in a city in the 1960s was 2, while it’s now 6. The average duration of a heat wave has also increased from 3 days to 6.
To summarize, reducing your carbon footprint and limiting your own emissions can help decrease the probability of long-term droughts that many areas of the US are already facing and help limit the duration of heat waves.
~ IAGB Youth Member, Anshika Shekhar
When the topic of climate change is discussed, many people divert their thinking to the burning of fossil fuels as a result of industrial processes. However, there are many other types of pollution that are also heavily affecting our Earth, like eutrophication.
Eutrophication is the process of uncontrolled and rapid algae growth. It is mainly caused by harmful algal blooms (HABs). An HAB is an algal bloom that causes negative impacts to other organisms via the production of natural algae-produced toxins, mechanical damage to other organisms, or by other means. They are caused by three main factors: external and internal nutrients, warm temperatures, and water stability. Algae can prosper off nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers and can thrive in warm waters. When more algae is produced, more cyanotoxins, toxins produced by cyanobacteria, are produced, and there are three main types that can be harmful to animal life: microcystis, anabaena, and cylindrospermopsin. Overall, these cyanotoxins produce deadly chemicals and when consumed, they can cause fever, vomit, nausea, headache, and liver and kidney toxicity.
With the increased number of HABs, the surface of the body of water is covered, blocking sunlight from going into the water. This stops photosynthesis in plants in the water, leading to less oxygen in the water. The algae die due to the low oxygen levels, so they float to the bottom of the body of water and are decomposed by microorganisms and bacteria. The decomposers use oxygen in the process, reducing oxygen levels in the lake, putting the lake in a state of hypoxia. This leads to the death of marine life, converting the body of water into a dead zone. This can lead to many problems, including recreational purposes, food, economic value, biodiversity, and the water supply all being affected.
Currently, this is a major problem in the United States and needs to be taken into consideration until it’s too late.
~ IAGB Youth Member, Kishan Angadi
What is ocean acidification?
Ocean acidification is the lowering of ocean pH over time due to an intake of CO2 from the atmosphere. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, carbonic acid is produced. This carbonic acid then dissociates, producing free hydrogen ions which “steal” free carbonate ions from the water. These carbonate ions are important as they are used to make calcium carbonate, which is used to make the shells and skeletons of many marine animals.
What is coral bleaching?
Coral bleaching is when the algae that live within the corals leave due to environmental stressors such as increasing ocean temperatures and ocean acidification. Without the algae, the corals cannot survive, destroying the reefs. As coral reefs are home to thousands of species, this affects the ocean food chain on a large scale.
Why does ocean acidification matter for humans?
Approximately 20 percent of the world’s population derives at least one-fifth of its animal protein intake from fish.1 Much of the seafood we eat is affected by ocean acidification. Crabs, oysters, clams, mussels, and shrimp will have difficulty creating strong shells and exoskeletons, making it more difficult for them to survive. When their population diminishes, the population of the fish that eat them also decreases, disrupting the whole ocean food chain.
Many jobs and economies around the world also depend on seafood. Decreasing harvests could hurt the developing nations that have few agricultural alternatives.
Humans also depend on coral reefs for storm protection and tourism opportunities. Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.2
Ocean acidification is one of the many detrimental impacts of the increased amounts of CO2 in our atmosphere, and it demonstrates just how important it is that we each do all that we can to reduce our collective carbon footprint!
~ IAGB Youth Editorial Director, Aarushi Pant
In the past two years, the term diseases has been prevalent in the lives of everyone around the globe. Headlines about the coronavirus disease and its progression seem almost non-stop. Infectious diseases can spread respiratorily (like COVID-19) as well as through food, insect bites, or direct contact.
With temperatures substantially increasing each year, diseases are spreading significantly more than ever before. The National Library of Medicine warns that the issue of water-borne and vector-borne infectious diseases will be exacerbated by the increase in temperatures and changes to precipitation caused by climate change1. For water-borne diseases, extreme climate events that have been linked to climate change, such as heavy precipitation and floods2 may increase the risks for infectious diseases spreading through water systems. Warmer temperatures also have been linked to illnesses from pathogens such as Salmonella and Campylobacter2. Vector-borne diseases are those that are spread through blood-feeding carriers such as mosquitoes or ticks. Mosquitoes breed in warmer areas and Earth’s rising temperatures create a better environment for them to thrive in, facilitating the spread of the diseases they carry. Examples of vector-borne diseases include dengue fever or malaria.
~ IAGB Youth Member, Nithya Rajeshkanna
IAGB Youth Spotlights:
Who: 25 and under
When: Submissions are due by April 15th.
Nomination form: https://forms.gle/yNMAZNBDeNB9c14SA
Inviting nominations for the next IAGB Youth Spotlights! The IAGB youth initiative spotlights talented local youth who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to art, sports, or the community. Nominees must be 25 years of age or younger, and they must have lived in the New England area.
Cradles to Crayons:
Who: 5 years and older
When: 3-5 Business days after registering
Founded in 2002, Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school, and at play. We supply these items free of charge by engaging and connecting communities that have with communities that need.
Friendship & Flowers:
Who: Teens and older
Visit with an elder who lives in an assisted living home and make their day a bit brighter. Each elder has something unique to share and offer and is looking forward to making new friends!