Over the past few decades, there has been much debate and discussion concerning the impacts of the greenhouse effect and climate change on the planet. But while there is consensus among the scientific community that these can result in crises for society and the environment at large, just exactly what these crises are remains a question for many. In other words, people know that climate change due to the greenhouse effect spells disaster, but what specifically these disasters are is often unclear. The simple answer is that the full extent of the greenhouse effect will likely involve a host of problems in various facets of life. This essay provides a quick glance at the impact of the greenhouse effect in the future its effects on sea levels, biodiversity, and agriculture.
What is the extent of the greenhouse effect now?
In order to understand how the greenhouse effect impacts the world, it is important to first understand what the greenhouse effect is. The greenhouse effect takes its name from a phenomenon similar to greenhouses. A greenhouse is a structure traditionally made of glass panels. This enclosed structure absorbs the heat coming from the sun and traps it within the enclosed space. This process results in the interior of the house becoming warmer than outside of it. Something similar happens with the greenhouse effect, except that in this case certain types of emissions accumulate in the atmosphere and become like the glass that traps the heat on the earths’ surface. These emissions are known as greenhouse gases and they include carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide among others. These gases come from a variety of sources, most of which are human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and the raising of animals for meat (United States Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2020).
The greenhouse effect is projected to cause massive consequences for sea levels across the globe in the future. As average temperatures continue to rise due to heat trapped in the atmosphere, ice sheets across the globe are melting at a rapid pace. For instance, studies have shown that glaciers around the world are melting much faster than expected. Water from the melted ice, in turn, is added to the oceans to the point that sea levels rise. Although the rise is gradual, sea levels may be high enough in the future to flood coastal and low-lying areas (Folger, 2013). For instance, many of the world’s major cities are located in coastal areas since these offer them direct access to trade routes along the world’s oceans. Megacities such as Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, and San Francisco in the US open up to the Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Ocean is flanked by major cities on both east and west including New York, Rio de Janeiro, and many European and African metropolitan centers (Holder et al., 2017). These cities located on the edge of oceans will become flooded, thereby necessitating the migration of tens if not hundreds of millions of people. The rise of sea levels and the accompanying problems represent a tremendous financial, humanitarian, and infrastructural challenge to future generations.
The future of the greenhouse effect will also see profound changes in the planet’s biodiversity. Biodiversity, or the variety of life form in a given ecosystem, is threatened by climate change resulting from the greenhouse effect. For instance, the increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere leads to acidification of the ocean. Acidification, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the formation of coral reefs that provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life (Harvey, 2018). Disruptions in the marine biodiversity can ultimately affect fish populations, thus potentially depriving humans of a major source of food, disrupting supply and demand, and causing both economic and humanitarian crises. On land, plants and animals that fail to adapt to rising temperatures may go extinct, thus contributing to the loss of biodiversity. Consider, for instance, how the extinction of one species of plant can lead to the extinction of another species of animal that relies on the said plant for food or habitat. Overall, biodiversity is essential to maintaining the food chain upon which humans depend for their needs. Loss of biodiversity, therefore, can result in the loss of vital resources for humans.
Finally, the greenhouse effect can also have negative impacts on agriculture in the future. Agriculture is the core of society’s sustenance. However, the escalation of the greenhouse effect could only mean the aggravation of climate change’s effects. Shifts in the temperature, extreme weather events, and changes in climate patterns can mess up with agricultural processes, thus resulting in decreased agricultural yields. With less crops being produced, people will face higher prices for agricultural goods and even food insecurity (Harper, 2018). Unfortunately, impoverished and marginalized communities will be the first to suffer from these consequences.
In conclusion, the greenhouse effect is projected to cause daunting problems in the future. Three of these problems are rising sea levels brought about by the melting of ice, loss of biodiversity that plays such an important role in sustaining human needs, and decreased agricultural yield resulting from disruptions in agricultural processes. With such extreme issues looming in the horizon, it begs the question of what society can do to avoid these. Complex problems, of course, require examination if the factors that caused it in the first place. The surge in power generation and consumption as well as the advent of greater connectivity has uncovered the effects of globalization, which as society knows now are both positive and negative. Fortunately, it is not too late to do something about the greenhouse effect and the resulting climate change. If society would only make a concerted effort to change its ways, perhaps a better future can be secured for future generations.
Folger, T. (2013, September). Rising seas. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/09/rising-seas-coastal-impact-climate-change/
Harper, L. (2018, January 15). What is biodiversity and how does climate change affect it? The Earth Institute. https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/01/15/biodiversity-climate-change/
Harvey, C. (2018, March 28). Climate change is becoming a top threat to biodiversity. Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-is-becoming-a-top-threat-to-biodiversity/
Holder, J., Kommenda, N., & Watts, J. (2017, November 3). The three-degree world: The cities that will be drowned by global warming. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/ng-interactive/2017/nov/03/three-degree-world-cities-drowned-global-warming
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020, September 8). Overview of greenhouse gases. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases