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Our Fragile Planet: 2023’s Wake-Up Call, Part 4 of 4

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On today’s program, we’ll highlight the impact of climate change on the oceans, forests, and our co-inhabitants.

With global temperatures steadily rising, the world’s ice continues to melt much more quickly than expected this year. “Since satellite records began in 1979, summer Arctic ice has already decreased dramatically from a high of more than 7 million square kilometers to just over 4 million square kilometers in 2022. Projection suggests that most of that September ice will disappear within the next few decades.” “Last year's drop in sea ice levels was responsible for around 9,000 penguin drownings.” The melting of ice, leading to rising sea levels, could potentially submerge dozens of cities, including Shanghai, Dhaka, Mumbai, Jakarta, Rotterdam, and New York, within the next 100 years. This phenomenon has the potential to flood areas currently inhabited by 470 to 760 million people around the world.

The global warming-induced melting of permafrost in Arctic regions such as Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia has raised fears among scientists that these potentially deadly viruses and bacteria may resurface and pose a threat to humanity. Even more recently, in the past year, scientists discovered a revived virus dating back 48,500 years in melting Siberian permafrost.

A study found that some tropical plants have stopped undergoing photosynthesis due to climate change. Additionally, the Asian tiger mosquito, a carrier of several fatal “tropical” diseases, has been expanding its presence throughout Europe, taking advantage of increasingly lengthy and hot summers.

From ocean to sky, wildlife is forced to make adjustments to cope with climate change. Cuckoo-folk have a hard time adjusting their clocks to keep pace with climate change, leading to a decline of 71% in the cuckoo-people population in England since 1995. The NSW Department of Primary Industries says, “The amount of dissolved oxygen water can hold decreases with increasing water temperature, which can add additional stress to fish that may already be struggling.” Oxygen deprivation is most likely behind the massive 2,500 seal-folk deaths on Russia’s Caspian coast last year, according to Russian environmental officials.

Climate change has also caused coral reefs to bleach and die off. Scientists warn that the sixth mass extinction of the planet’s biodiversity is currently underway, with the disappearance of many species in the last few centuries.

With the current rate of global warming, more and more extreme disasters are expected to happen. Immediate action needs to be taken to save the world and its inhabitants from extinction. Based on research by scientists from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, a plant-based diet would cut net emissions by 52% and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Professor Patrick Brown (vegan) of Stanford University says he hopes that “others, including entrepreneurs, scientists, and global policymakers, will recognize that this is our best and most immediate chance to reverse the trajectory of climate change and seize the opportunity.”
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