Climate change is a hot topic at the moment, and for good reason. The glaciers of the Arctic are shrinking, ice on lakes and rivers is breaking up, plant and animal species are being harmed, trees are flowering sooner, and the more intense heatwaves are causing accelerated sea-level rises. In this article, we’ll look at how climate change is affecting biodiversity on our planet.
A Brief Introduction to Fossil Fuels
For more than a century, burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gasses has generated most of the energy needed to light our homes, power our cars, and keep our businesses running. Today, coal, oil, and gas provide around 80% of our energy.
Fossil fuels were formed by fossilised remains of animals and plants that lived millions of years ago. They contain a high carbon content which means that when burned, they release carbon dioxide and other harmful substances into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide traps heat inside the earth’s atmosphere and contributes to global warming.
Biodiversity and Climate Change
According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, there is sufficient evidence that climate change affects biodiversity.
Climate change is likely to become one of the most significant contributors to biodiversity loss by the end of the century. Climate change is forcing biodiversity to adapt either through changing habitat, life cycle shifts, or developing new characteristics.
Healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity are critical to life on our planet. Several species have already been badly affected by the results of climate change. When a species is faced with difficult conditions, it must either adapt or find areas where the conditions are more favorable.
Disruptions in the food chain can be caused by climate change, these can be in changes as small as a species of insect which aids the pollination of our food sources or flower species dying off. This will inevitably affect the ever-growing population.
Biodiversity can support attempts to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. Restored or conserved habitats can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. An example of this is tree plantation sites. During photosynthesis, trees consume carbon dioxide and break down food materials.
Trees cleanse the environment as whilst absorbing carbon dioxide, they release oxygen. Trees are also a hive of activity for a number of species providing a home to animals like birds, bats, and squirrels. They also enhance the environment providing beauty to the landscape.
What Can We Do to Support a Rich Biodiversity
Quite simply, governments around the world must act much quicker to reduce the harm done by the burning of fossil fuels and from habitat loss due to human activity.
In the UK, there are already many promising initiatives underway, and has pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050 under the Climate Change Act.
The UK has also seen the banning of burning coal and wet wood on open fires and log burners. The ban comes into force in 2023 and people will be required to burn cleaner alternatives by buying dry wood and manufactured solid fuels, which produce less smoke.
Other ways the UK is attempting to tackle climate change are ensuring there are lower emissions from industry, farming, transport, and businesses, planting more trees to help aid with the absorption of carbon dioxide, and releasing oxygen into the environment.
Households are also required across the UK to recycle waste. Recycling helps prevent the emissions of greenhouse gases and water pollutants that are released when the rubbish begins to break down. One main scheme is the phasing out the sales of new diesel and petrol cars and vans within the decade to make way for motorists switching to electric.
Another initiative in the UK worth noting is Biodiverity Net Gain. The Chancellors’ 2019 spring statement indicated it will be mandatory for all development in England to deliver a ‘Biodiversity Net Gain’. This means that developments in England will be required to demonstrate a 10% increase in biodiversity on or near development sites.
Whilst these initiatives are promising, other countries need to do their part too. The world is in a crisis at the moment. Our biodiversity is suffering and we must take massive action to avoid disaster.