Your Order of Fish & Chips is Going Extinct

Open nearly any diner or local restaurant menu in New England and you’ll see fish and chips as a popular option. The fish in fish and chips is North Atlantic cod. So many people in New England and around the country enjoy fish and chips, but few people know the impact global warming and overfishing are having on New England’s cod population.

Global warming, as we know, is caused by an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A “side effect” of global warming that’s often referenced is rising ocean levels; however, it might not be clear that the rising ocean levels stem from the ocean becoming warmer. The ocean is naturally resistant to temperature changes because the hydrogen bonds in water form very stable bonds, so a large amount of heat energy is required to break them apart. This means that water can absorb a large amount of heat energy before its temperature rises. The rising temperature of the ocean illustrates how drastic global warming has become.

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Since the ocean’s temperature is normally very stable, aquatic species are largely accustomed to a specific temperature within their habitat and do not respond well to change. Specifically, the North Atlantic cod has been shown to have difficulty adapting to the warmer water. Cod generally migrate late in the spring and early in the fall; however, with warmer water, that migration pattern could shift to much earlier in the spring and much later in the fall to avoid the warm waters. Cod could also move permanently farther north, or even stop migrating if there is no sea ice left at all. Some populations, particularly those farther south such as in North Carolina and off the coast of southern New England, would become entirely extinct by 2100 if the ocean temperature projections for that time are true.

Not only do New Englanders love to eat cod, but cod fishing is also a massive industry across New England and the North Atlantic. In the mid-1990s, there was a massive drop off in cod population due to overfishing. Since the population was so endangered that the New England Fishery Management Council said they were headed “seemingly inexorably, to oblivion.” In January of 2013, Congress passed regulations on cod quotas in the Northeast: cuts as much as 80% for the next three years off the coast of Maine. While this will hopefully help to raise the population of cod in the North Atlantic, it hurts the local economy. Fishery is a massive industry in New England, and such a drastic cut to an already declining population and struggling industry means that life will become even more difficult to fishermen relying on the next catch. Also, the warming waters might mean that cod populations will not increase to their former abundance even with highly managed fishing quotas.

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Scientists know that the declining population of cod in the North Atlantic is due to both overfishing and climate change. However, they are not yet sure what the best course is to fix it. Although fishing quotas have been imposed, those also injure the local economy and make it difficult to justify continued cuts on quotas. Additionally, cod is only an indicator for other fisheries across the globe. If all species need to move farther north to avoid warmer waters, what will live in the southern waters? Northern waters do not provide the coral reefs that southern waters do, so a multitude of fish populations that rely on coral reefs could become extinct. All of these issues are just as important as the impacts of global warming on land. The ocean takes up so much of our Earth’s surface, and we depend so deeply on the ocean, from water supply, food, transportation, recreation, and industry. I think we need to pay a lot more attention to what’s happening everywhere in the ocean, from the sea caps to the coral reefs, and including the smaller indicators, like cod, that show us what’s happening in a wider scale.

India’s Worst Air Pollution is Inside Its Homes

airpollutionindiaAir pollution in India is mainly comprised of Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, PM 10, ozone, and CO__; outdoor air pollution, that is. India also struggles with indoor air pollution, an issue that does not necessarily produce the massive clouds of smog that are so iconic of outdoor air pollution. Yet indoor air pollution is actually an even larger problem than India’s outdoor air pollution. For perspective, Delhi, India is now the most polluted city in the world, tied only with Beijing. India’s outdoor Air Quality Index (AQI) measures at 153, well into the Unhealthy range that is highly dangerous to inhabitants’ health. For indoor air pollution to be even worse means that Indians are being exposed to extremely dangerous air pollution at all times every day.

Indoor air pollution can come from appliances such as toasters, refrigerators, and air conditioners; substances like asbestos, formaldehyde, and lead; and smoke from tobacco and cooking, among other sources. In most countries, indoor air pollution is regulated, appliances are required to be within certain standards, and clear guidelines are given for what levels of indoor air pollution are healthy and unhealthy. India, however, has none of these, which leads to the monstrous indoor air pollution plaguing the country. The chronic air pollution that Indians are subject to can lead to respiratory issues and even cancer.

In a recent study, outdoor air pollution is the fifth largest killer in India, while indoor air pollution was the second, behind only high blood pressure. In 2010, 1.3 million Indians died of indoor air pollution. Globally, indoor air pollution killed 4.3 million people. The issue is especially poignant in India, as there is very little public concern for the issue while it obviously continues to be a major health risk. In India, 27.5% of all infant deaths can be attributed to indoor air pollution. The WHO norm for indoor air pollution is 20 unit grams per cubic meter of air. India’s indoor air pollution is at 375 unit grams per cubic meter of air, almost 19 times the standard. indoorairpollution

India’s government has made no move to combat the serious problem of indoor air pollution. Most Indian women and children spend the majority of their time indoors, leading to these massive health risks. Like China with the Under the Dome documentary, India needs something to spark public attention and make a move towards change. India is still developing, so it has the opportunity to be the first country to develop in an environmentally friendly way.

A Green Antarctica?

There’s a bit of a dilemma happening in the Antarctic. That is, besides the fact that the glaciers are melting at a rate of 49 billion tons of ice each year. 

The issue is more of a moral one. Scientists largely agree that global warming is real, and it is a problem that will have catastrophic impacts on our world if left unchecked. The glaciers in Antarctica are certainly melting: it is entirely possible that in the next 200 years, the sea levels could rise up to 10 feet. In the past 200 years, sea levels rose by only 7 inches, and that was considered drastic. Coastal cities such as Venice, Boston, Miami, New York, and Mumbai would incur significant economic and physical damage, mostly stemming from a chronic flooding issue that would be difficult to control. Global warming, and therefore the melting of the glaciers, is caused by the greenhouse effect. The two major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO₂) and methane, and they form a layer of our atmosphere. As the light from the sun hits Earth, it reflects as infrared Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 10.02.40 PMradiation. Most of this then exits the atmosphere, but some of the energy is contained by the greenhouse gases and continues to warm our atmosphere. The more greenhouse gases we emit, the more energy is contained and the warmer our atmosphere becomes. Obviously the concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere has become overwhelming, as the glaciers in Antarctica are melting at a pace over five times faster than was predicted by scientists, when they should not be melting at all. The glaciers melt from the bottom up: first the water beneath them warms from the general temperature increase in the atmosphere at large. This, in turn, warms the ice and causes portions to break off, which then continue to melt in the water. The newly exposed ice then makes contact with the warmer water, and the glacier continues to melt.

So what is the dilemma? Surely all scientists would prefer that the glaciers stopped melting, even refroze. However, for botanists and plant biologists, the melted glaciers and warmer climate have some other affects that might even make global warming a bit alluring: plants are growing more, and better. This provides an opportunity to study the plant life of Antarctica in a way that has been previously impossible. Therein lies the conundrum: melting glaciers would increase the plant and animal life in the Antarctic, an exciting prospect for scientists in that area. The repercussions, however, would devastate many heavily settled cities as well as the ecosystems of both the ocean and the coastal areas.

Antarctica Glacial MeltingI think that while the prospect of finding out more about the ecosystems that could arise in the melted absence of the Antarctic glaciers, the damages to our civilization and other ecosystems would be too great a blow to justify even hoping that the glaciers continue to melt. The fortuitous discovery of further information on the Antarctic plant life is possibly something to ease the pain of the devastation of global warming, but it certainly does not justify perpetuating our current cycle of CO₂ emissions and pollution. We must continue to work towards a greener, healthier, less melty world.

Its Hard Not To Care When There Is So Much Smog In The Air

Living in New England, we have all encountered several blizzard warnings in which we are advised not to leave our homes. But can you imagine not being able to leave your home due poor air quality. For many of us this is unimaginable. How could the air quality within a whole country be so poor that one could not leave their home? For me, I actually lived through a smog epidemic during the summer of 2013 (Figure 1). This epidemic was so bad that the government made it illegal for individuals to leave their homes for about 3 days. Smog and excess air pollution is a chronic problem in Asian countries. This week I decided to dive in deeper and truly understand how smog build up occurs and why we see it so often in Asia.

Figure 1

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Smog by definition is the combination of smoke and fog. Smog is a black haze comprised of a mixture of pollutants (Figure 2). But how exactly is smog created? As previously mentioned, smog is essentially a combination of pollutants in the air. When these pollutants are burnt the fumes are then released into the air.  These fumes come directly from things such as heavy traffic, high temperatures, sunshine and calm winds.The smog we see today is called photochemical smog. Photochemical smog is when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere. Examples of nitrogen oxides include car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions. Examples of VOCs are include gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents. When the sunlight hits these particles it sparks the creation of fumes thus creating smog. Asian countries tend to have high populations thus resulting in an increase in the number of automobiles and heavy traffic. In addition, Asia being located near the equator makes for high temperatures and plenty of sunshine. These factors double the effects of smog and amplifies the effect. 

Figure 2

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Smog can be extremely detrimental to ones health and in some cases it can be fatal. Smog gives off an immediate effect and theres no gradual build up. Smog can cause minor health issues such as a cold and pneumonia. Although this is the case, smog can also be responsible for major health issues such as lung cancer. Smog is most commonly known for causing irritation  in the eyes and increasing the difficulty to breathe (figure 3). Smog also deteriorates plant life. With several pollutants in the air, this makes it difficult for plant life to prosper and continue to grow. More often than not plant life can completely die as a result of smog. 

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So what can you do to help? There several small actions one can do to reduce the amount of smog emitted in urban areas. First and for most, avoid driving if it is not necessarily. Try walking, carpooling, and or using bikes if everyone tries to do this smog emissions will slowly begin to decrease. In addition, fill your automobile with gasoline during the cooler hours of the day; this prevents gas fumes from heating up and producing ozone. Finally, if one cuts down on gas powered appliances and uses electrically powered appliances in stead this will also reduce the amount of smog.

The smog epidemic personally effected me and I am fearful that the problem will increase if we dont do anything about it. This problem can be reduced as long as we are aware and try and put forth our best effort to reduce the number of gas powered appliances we use!!! What will you do to reduce the effects of smog on our community?

CO2 Emissions

We live in a world that thrives off the burning of different fossil fuels and the constant use of electricity.Through the burning of fossil fuels and use of electricity, CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. This means that we basically live in a world that thrives off the emission of CO2.   It’s a sad reality that is unfortunately true.  Everyday, people are emitting ton CO2 into the Earth’s atmosphere without realizing the negative effect the emissions have on human and animal lives. CO2 is already present in the Earth’s atmosphere,which raises the question as to why it can and does have so many negative effects on human and animals, if the organisms have already adapted to its effects. Have you ever heard the phrase, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing? That is precisely what is happening with the amount of CO2 present in Earth’s atmosphere. Through human activities, the amount of CO2 present in the Earth’s atmosphere has increased greatly.

In 2012, 82% of all greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, in the United States was CO2 emitted through human activity. One main source of CO2 emission is through the use of electricity. Electricity is used to power homes, commercial buildings, and everyday appliances. The amount of energy that we as humans use in a day is ridiculous. We use electricity to charge our phones, to charge our laptops, to power our lights, and many other things to help our lives function smoothly. Electricity is generally generated through the combustion of fossil fuels especially the burning of coal. The burning of coal then emits CO2 into the atmosphere and in the U.S. the amount emitted was 38%. Another way that we as humans emit CO2 into the atmosphere is through transportation. By driving your car to the doctor or taking the train to the town square, you are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. Through the burning of gasoline and diesel both of which are fossil fuels, more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. Transportation accounts for about 32% of all CO2 emissions in the United States.

The effects that CO2 has on organisms at times can be deadly. The increase in CO2 emissions is one of the main reasons global warming is occurring. The rate at which CO2 is being emitted into the atmosphere, will eventually cause  the Earth to be too hot to live on. It will also cause the Earth to experience extremer weather conditions. Due to the climate the change and increase in temperature infectious disease will be able to spread faster. This is because the disease will be able to live and thrive longer in warmer temperatures. Another effect is that there has been an increase in acid rain that affects mainly marine animals. The pH level in oceans is rising as CO2 emissions increase. As the pH level increases, the harder it will be for organisms to adapt to the new environment and some if not most will die out.

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So the question that I seek to answer is why are we as humans still emitting these gases into the air if we know that they are harming animals and us.

 

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/co2.html\

http://www.uniglobetravel.mu/AccessCorporateTravel/GreenTravel/CO2EmissionsEffects.aspx

http://www.who.int/globalchange/environment/en/chapter6.pdf

If We Could See Our Carbon Emissions, Would It Affect the Way We Spend Energy?

The debate over whether global warming is real continues to rage on between scientists, the media, and the masses of wildly under-informed citizens of the world. Whether the sides ever come to an agreement is irrelevant: carbon emissions, the culprit behind global warming, are a reality and they have very real effects. Many of the effects, however, are completely invisible: increased acidity of ocean water, a depleted ozone layer, climate change, air pollution, and a list of others.

Carbon emissions are produced by so many activities we have deemed necessary for our everyday lives, yet they are completely invisible. When you turn on the lights in your room or turn up the heat, you do not suddenly see a column of smoke reminiscent of some particularly grisly trucks on the highway.

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Visible carbon emissions show the flow and concentration of carbon emissions.

The ocean absorbs a major part of the carbon in the environment, but the climbing CO2 emissions have caused the ocean to become more acidic. This damages coral reefs and food webs. Ozone depletion leads to more UVB rays leaking through to the Earth’s surface, instigating climate change and raising the risk of skin cancer. Air pollution can seriously affect health and agriculture. The impacts of climate change range from human health effects to an increase in pests as well as more frequent hurricanes in some places, yet decreased water availability in others. All of these are ramifications of carbon emissions. None of them are immediately visible to the human eye, yet over the span of a few decades, they will wreak major havoc on the environment.

This videosmokestack truck shows what Earth would look like from space if carbon emissions were visible to the human eye. If we could see carbon emissions in our daily lives, like the smokestack coming off a truck coming out of a wall socket when we leave our computer plugged in all night even after it is fully charged, would we use less energy and produce less carbon emissions? When the effects as well as the emissions themselves are invisible, it can be hard to save energy or even realize how much carbon you are emitting. Accurately calculating your carbon footprint can be a time consuming and confusing endeavor, especially because many of the activities that relate to your carbon footprint, such as how local the food you eat is and whether you eat a meat- or plant-based diet, do not seem to have obvious carbon ramifications. So if our carbon emissions were as obvious as the smoke coming off a truck, would there be such a struggle to move towards lowering carbon emissions? Whether such a change would make us realize the benefits to lowering our emissions ourselves or if a sense of public embarrassment– the idea that others can see just how much you are damaging the environment– would catalyze a change, there would likely be a great deal more accountability for our actions.

Changing Biomes in South Africa and it’s Negative Effect

Could it be possible for a region to experience a change of it’s biome? If you think that this is absolutely ridiculous, I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong. It is completely possible for a region to have a change in it’s biomes overtime. But first, you may be wondering what a biome is, so here is a little refresher. A biome is a large area on the earth’s surface, which is defined by it’s abiotic factors such as climate, precipitation, geology, soil, and vegetation. In each of the biomes, the animals and plants have to learn to adapt to the environment. A common misconception is that a biome is an ecosystem, but that is actually not true. Although it may seem that a biome is a large ecosystem, in a biome the plants and animals have adaptive qualities and because of this you will also find multiple ecosystems in a biome. More specifically, the grassland biome is predominant with different species of grass, with a few trees and bushes scattered across. There are two types of grasslands, the Savanna Grassland and the the Temperate Grassland. The grassland biome can be considered the medium or the in-between of a desert biome and rainforest biome. Because of it’s temperatures, it can be considered to be either, and because of it’s lond dry season, it can be classified as a desert.

Now back to what I was saying, an example of changing biomes is currently happening in South Africa. Because of the increasing temperature, which has to do with climate change, and the change in precipitation, South Africa is facing the challenge of trying to preserve the grassland biome. The grassland biome is getting reduced in size, which is leading to an increase in the desert biome. You can see in figure one, that even though there are several different types of biomes in South Africa, there is a large difference in the size of the grassland biome from several years ago to now.

Figure 1.

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The reason that this is such a big deal is because if the grassland biome begins to decrease, it will affect all of the animals and plants that have adapted to the certain biome. Some of these animals may not be abel to make the transition, which will cause them to die. This in turn can have a drastic impact on the ecosystems in the biome and the food web. For instance, if a zebra is unable to find grass, which it’s main source of food, then the number of zebra’s will decrease. This will then effect the cheetahs, which feed on the zebras.

Another reason that this is harmful is because of the increase in aridity, which refers to the dryness of the atmosphere. Because of the aridity, the area of the atmosphere can shrink. If you look at figure 2, as of 2002, the area highlighted in blue was rather large, but as the years progress, the area has shrunk because there is double the amount of CO2 emissions.

Figure 2.

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All in all, the changing of biomes is extremely hazardous to the environment and the ecosystems in these environments. The excess levels of CO2 in the atmosphere area result of humans; therefore, with less CO2 emissions, the changing of biomes can hopefully come to an end.

Resources: 

http://www.grida.no/publications/vg/africa/page/3120.aspx

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/grasslands.htm