The projected scale and rate of climate change, coupled with existing environmental pressures, has serious implications for the natural environment and the services it provides. Our climate affects all areas of life, directly or indirectly, and climate change will have wide-ranging impacts.
One of those impacts is seen directly in the bleak, unforgiving environment of the Antarctic. The Earth’s southernmost continent, Antarctica, is home to the South Pole and lots of penguins. Made even more popular by the film ‘Happy Feet’, penguins are aquatic, flightless birds that are highly adapted to life in the water. So much so in fact, that penguins can spend up to 75% of their lives in the water. They do all of their hunting in the water and there are nearly twenty species scattered around the Southern Hemisphere.
Unfortunately, the penguins calling the Antarctic their home are not as happy as Mumble, the tap dancing penguin from Happy Feet. Life for them is getting tougher in our changing climate. Retreating sea ice around the Antarctic Peninsula is taking with it valuable habitat and food, in one of the most rapidly warming places on Earth. Research has found an increase in annual temperature here between 1958 and 2010 to be 2.4 ± 1.2°C.
Reasoning around the diminishing numbers of penguins includes declines in major food sources, as well as more melt water runoff making the early life of penguin chicks more perilous, with fewer surviving into adulthood.
On the other side of the globe, another animal is suffering the impacts of climate change. Perhaps not as cute and fluffy as penguins are portrayed, but just as important, walruses in Alaska are being forced ashore. Lack of sea ice has forced some 35,000 walruses to seek refuge on land just recently, following the warmest global June-August period on record.
As with anything in life, there are climate change ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, with some species thriving in their new conditions, whilst others perish. It’s clear however that climate change is a major threat to global biodiversity – penguins and walruses are just two of the many species struggling to adapt to their changing habitats.
So what does this matter to you? Well if you want the world we live in preserved for generations to come, we must all do a little bit to reduce the impact our day-to-day lives have on our fragile environment. For some ideas about what you can do to reduce your impact on the climate, take a look at these articles:
- How to be more environmentally friendly at home
- 9 top tips for greening your workplace
- 10 ways to reduce your ecological footprint