Analyzing Challenges for the Future … Essay
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Climate Change: A Global Challenge for the Future
The issue of climate change is amongst the greatest challenges faced by the current generation. Several future generations will judge and remember, the people of our time for the action we take now, to cope with this issue of immense magnitude. In many ways, I feel this problem is comparable to that faced by our forebearers during the Second World War. A similar kind of commitment is required today, but rather than fighting fascism, the goal now is averting the biggest social and ecological disaster the earth has ever encountered. A past generation of humankind that helped put an end to fascism/Nazism is now affectionately called the world's greatest generation, as they braved huge odds and persisted to surmount overwhelming situations. The test for the present generation is addressing climatic fluctuations (Wilhelm, 2013).
Ecological crises have never before posed as grave and momentous a hazard to human existence and lifestyle, on such an enormous, global level, as the present climate change. Until recently, it appears that hardly any individual who was not an environmentalist or climate scientist took note of greenhouse gas emissions into the earth's atmosphere. The world has reached this dire state today because, in the course of the last hundred years, human society has constructed its capitalist market structure based on the following two principles
1) emphasis on shareholder value maximization in business activities, and
2) abundance of inexpensive energy from fossil fuels.
These proved detrimental because, with market pressures driving businesses to place emphasis on short-range profits, environmental and social impacts have merely been considered to the extent that is necessary for avoiding financial losses associated with regulation. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) -- an association of over a thousand of the top scientists across the globe -- stated that climate system warming is an undeniable occurrence, now obvious from the apparent witnessed increases in average ocean and air temperatures across the globe, rising average global sea level, and extensive liquefying of snow. This declaration gives no opportunity to doubt the fact that the earth's temperature is, indeed, increasing. The focus of debate on the matter is now on the swiftness with which average global temperatures rise, and the complete range of its implications (Wilhelm, 2013).
Climate Change Impacts on Weather, Water and Disease
Whether or not one believes, that the global warming phenomenon is occurring is an established fact; nobody can deny its effects. While it might be that some part of the trend arises from a heightened awareness of natural disaster occurrence, thanks to communication technology advances, IPCC data indicates an extremely close relationship between the current global temperature fluctuations and increasing frequency of extreme weather phenomena (Wilhelm, 2013). Furthermore, IPCC scientists acknowledge the fact that millions of individuals' health is currently at immensely heightened risk, because of:
1. More intense and frequent flood storms, heat waves, droughts, and fires, causing disease, injury, and death
1. Drop in potable water availability and a concurrent rise in global population
1. Disease diffusion and growth in earlier-uninfected nations and regions
1. The CRED (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters) has identified numerous means by which natural disasters have started worsening, including drought, flood, intensity of rainfall, tornado and hailstorm intensity, and wildfire, accompanied by increasing loss of livelihood, life and property (Wilhelm, 2013).
Scarcity of water has already started having significant impact, particularly in areas where individuals already face conflict and crisis over claiming this resource. Scarcity of water is, becoming a worldwide issue, of late. Even in affluent nations like the U.S., businesses have had to economize, owing to dwindling water supplies and increasing drought. Scarcity of water is being acknowledged as a global business risk. For instance, one of Tennessee's nuclear power stations was driven to temporarily halting its operations in the year 2007, due to a regional drought. The Californian electronics industry alone consumes roughly 24% of state water resources. Southwestern U.S. and numerous other regions across the world are already experiencing physical scarcity of water, a condition wherein over three-fourths of their respective river water resources are put to domestic, agricultural, and industrial use (Wilhelm, 2013).
Humans, plants, animals, and all other life forms are closely linked to their respective physical environments. Even minimal fluctuations in soil moisture, air temperature, or water salinity can have considerable impacts. these changes impact every species uniquely; however, such individual effects can rapidly reverberate throughout the complex network of life constituting a particular ecosystem. Two key forms of ecological climate-change impacts have particularly been witnessed across the U.S.: shifts in the ranges of species (i.e., shifts in locations wherein they reproduce and survive), and phenology shifts (or shifts in timing of seasonal biological activities). Examples of such kinds of impacts are seen in several species and regions, over extended periods (Reid, Sharples, Johnson, & Cline, 2009).
With increased global warming, a number of species are seen to be shifting to places having more tolerable climatic conditions (e.g., satisfactory temperature and precipitation levels). Around 40% of wild animals and plants researched over the past several decades are now relocating to remain within tolerable weather ranges. The organisms that move too slowly, or are witnessing actual shrinking of their ranges have nowhere to relocate and face extinction. For instance, with shrinking of the Arctic Sea's ice, habitats of polar bears, seals, and other animals making their home on this ice shrink as well. With contraction of these habitats towards the South and North poles, life forms depending on them are literally going to reach the Earth's end (Reid, Sharples, Johnson, & Cline, 2009).
Moreover, climate change has been giving rise to changes in seasonal biological activities' timing. A number of biological events, particularly those scheduled for fall and spring, base themselves on seasonal indications. Research has proven that many species' seasonal behaviors presently occur between 15 and 20 days prior to their regular occurrence many decades ago. For instance, butterflies emerge sooner, plants bud and bloom earlier, and migrant birds are seen to arrive at their seasonal habitats earlier (Reid, Sharples, Johnson, & Cline, 2009).
Social and Environmental Concerns
Due to climate fluctuations and increased prominence of its impacts, the gravity as well as scope of other connected environmental and social concerns is increasing. Ecosystems are declining, resources are dwindling, and potential effect on the Earth's biodiversity is unclear. The effects go far beyond the Earth's true-life sustenance capacity. James Hansen, a scientist from NASA and one of America's first climatologists who showed the Congress evidence of climate change's threat over two decades ago, asserts that our aim must be to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to 350 ppm (parts per million). Carbon dioxide concentration before the 18th century Industrial Revolution was roughly 287 ppm; however, 2008 estimates reveal it to be at an alarming 387 ppm, increasing at a projected annual rate of two to three ppm (Wilhelm, 2013).
Implications for Climate Change Communication
It is imperative to understand these challenges' implications for communication of climate change (Moser, 2010):
1. Firstly, perceiving and understanding climate change is not an easy task for most of the common people. Hence, there is a call for communicators to find simpler and more explicit mental models, metaphors, and imagery, together with compelling framing, for laying the groundwork for more proper cognitive processing.
1. Secondly, irrespective of how inevitable and urgent an issue climate change is to experts, it is currently (and probably for quite some time into the future) an ambiguous, mediated issue for a majority of lay individuals, and is conveniently undermined by more direct, present experiences. In other words, lay people require abundant, explicit, consistent, and sufficiently strong signals supporting required changes. This distinct signaling task cannot be underestimated, considering the obstacles of cognition, societal and climate system lags, man-nature disconnect, and other issues/distractions that vie for constant consideration/implication.
1. Thirdly, while further knowledge and increased scientific literacy is welcome and crucial for a number of reasons, assuming that people simply lack climate change information, education (or insight), and that filling these knowledge gaps and consequently forcing lay people to somehow interpret findings in some specific way would make them automatically act and decrease carbon footprint and energy consumption, is an overly simplistic thought.
1. Lastly, scientists have, since long, maintained and will, in future, maintain a privileged status as climate change-related knowledge holders, interpreters and messengers. For being effective, scientists as well as other communicators need to familiarize themselves further with the communication scholarship. Clearly, communication between lay, unevenly motivated and interested individuals, and highly-educated communicators requires considerable effort to result in increased comprehension and constructive involvement.
Researchers aim at understanding how climate and weather can impact human health, as well as estimate the nature, size, and timing of these impacts. Public health officials' and scientists' primary aim is prevention of rise in unfavourable impacts linked to changing climate and weather, as well as realizing that scarce public health resources might… [END OF PREVIEW]
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