19 March 2013

Gambia: The Impacts of Global Warming On Humans & Animals


A warm greeting from the Environment desk, and welcome once again to this column. In this edition, we wish to bring your attention to issues surrounding the possibility of global warming and its negative effects on humans and animals.

Research has found that, environmentalists, scientists and keen researchers have raisedconcerns that the ozone layer is deteriorating due topollution. According to them such deterioration allows large amounts of ultraviolet B rays to reach Earth, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans and harm animals as well.

As the world works to reduce emissions, it is also important to note that we must simultaneously begin to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change with a view to avert ing effects of global warming and its related issues.

Global warming

It's nearly impossible to overstate the threat of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising more rapidly than predicted and the world is warming more quickly in response.

Environmental experts are with the view that global warming will have catastrophic effects such as accelerating sea level rise, droughts, floods, storms and heat waves. These will impact on some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people, disrupting food production, and threatening vitally important species, habitats and ecosystems.

Although the time for this has not been disclosed, despite compelling scientific evidence, governments and businesses have responded with painful slowness. Even if countries fulfill all current mitigation pledges, the world will still face between 2.6 and 4 ºC of warming. Ozone is a highly reactive molecule that contains three oxygen atoms. It is constantly being formed and broken down in the high atmosphere, 6.2 to 31 miles (10 to 50 kilometers) above Earth, in the region called the stratosphere.

The ozone layer is a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits 9.3 to 18.6 miles (15 to 30 kilometers) above Earth and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the sun.

Today, environmentalists, scientists and keen researchers have raisedwidespread concerns that the ozone layer is deteriorating due to the release of pollution containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine. Such deterioration allows large amounts of ultraviolet B rays to reach Earth, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans and harm animals as well.

Effects of ultraviolet B radiation animals

Extra ultraviolet B radiation reaching Earth also inhibits the reproductive cycle of phytoplankton, single-celled organisms such as algae that make up the bottom rung of the food chain. This eventually made biologists fear that reductions in phytoplankton populations will in turn lower the populations of other animals. Researchers also have documented changes in the reproductive rates of young fish, shrimp, and crabs as well as frogs and salamanders exposed to excess ultraviolet B.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals found mainly in spray aerosols mainly used by industrialized nations for the past 50 years, are the primary culprits in ozone layer breakdown. When CFCs reach the upper atmosphere, they are exposed to ultraviolet rays, which cause them to break down into substances that include chlorine. The chlorine reacts with the oxygen atoms in ozone and rips apart the ozone molecule. One atom of chlorine can destroy more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules, according to the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmentalists believe that the ozone layer above the Antarctic has been particularly impacted by pollution since the mid-1980s. This region's low temperatures speed up the conversion of CFCs to chlorine. In the southern spring and summer, when the sun shines for long periods of the day, chlorine reacts with ultraviolet rays, destroying ozone on a massive scale, up to 65 percent. This is what some people erroneously refer to as the "ozone hole." In other regions, the ozone layer has deteriorated by about 20 percent.

The Ozone Layer and Climate Change

Scientists believe that global warming will lead to a weaker ozone layer, because as the surface temperature rises, the stratosphere (the ozone layer being found in the upper part) will get colder, making the natural repairing of the Ozone slower. Reports have it that by 2030, "climate change may surpass chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as the main driver of overall ozone loss.

The Ozone layer protects all life on Earth from the harmful effects of the sun's rays. It has been depleting for many years now. Scientists have said that currently over Antarctica the Ozone hole is three times the size of the United States and growing. Also, according to scientists, more than 60 percent of the ozone layer blanketing the Arctic Circle was lost in the 1999/2000 winter.

Also, September 9 to 10, 2000, the ozone hole stretched over a populated city for the first time. It was in Punta Arenas, a southern Chile city of about 120,000 people, exposing residents to very high levels of ultra violet radiation. The ozone depletion has also been correlated with higher levels of cancer in humans and animals.

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