Will Climate Change leave California a disintegrated, arid wasteland? What even is climate change in the first place? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that climate change is simply ‘“any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity”’ in the article, What Is Climate Change? (Pielke Jr 31). Those who do not know very much about climate change will be granted a range of information specifically about California’s environment and how climate change is shifting it in many ways. Climate change is a very concerning topic for environmental scientists, but the concern shouldn’t be limited to them. This issue affects every Californian citizen, whether directly or indirectly. Climate change is a rather controversial subject because of the correlation between certain human activities and global warming, a type of climate change which has resulted in a slightly higher average worldwide temperature in recent decades. An intimidating aspect of global warming that has already showed itself in recent times is a higher frequency of wildfires. Exploration of scientific journals and research explains how climate change is affecting California’s wildfire activity, weather patterns, and ecosystems. Through the evidence found, humans may better understand the role they play in the changing climate.
According to the joint study by L. Mann and colleagues, Incorporating Anthropogenic Influences into Fire Probability Models: Effects of Human Activity and Climate Change on Fire Activity in California, wildfire frequency is expected to increase with the changing climate in California (2). In order to support the data given in the article, the researchers use climate models, which are compiled calculations of future climate that use all potential effective factors to show the shifts in climate (2). However, even with these highly specialized forecasting projectors, wildfire frequency and location are still extremely difficult to predict (2). Human population growth in California and climate change variability lead to relatively no real way to extrapolate a wildfire. According to the same study, the majority of fires in the state are actually caused by people (2). An approximation of 95% of wildfires are instigated by people alone, which acts as evidence of the potential correlation between population growth and increasing fire activity (L. Mann et al. 2). Climatic influences are still definitely present though. According to this same study, the number of wildfires is expected to grow with “increased spring and summer temperatures, early snowmelt, and decreased precipitation” (16). This is a valid prediction, as lower levels of rainfall cause a drier, more fire-prone landscape. From this study’s evidence and predictions, it can be concluded that both population growth and climate change are partially responsible for the increasing number of wildfires in California. To provide a broad idea of the future frequencies of wildfires, the authors state that “the total area burned in the state is estimated to increase from somewhere between +15 and 50%” which tells scientists that the state could potentially experience many more wildfires than normal (2). This article is useful because we can see some of the ways in which climate change is making predictability of wildfires more difficult for scientists.
While wildfires are a hot topic in the climate change discussion, weather patterns are also crucial to this issue. What exactly does climate change mean for weather patterns in California? For California, it is all about temperature. According to the article, The Key Role of Heavy Precipitation Events in Climate Model Disagreements of Future Annual Precipitation Changes in California, the increasing temperatures in California are not necessarily causing a drop in the frequency of rain, but instead they are affecting the distribution (W. Pierce et al. 5880). Days with minimal rainfall are expected to decrease, while days of intense rainfall are projected to increase (W. Pierce et al. 5880). This increase in severely rainy days will mostly affect Northern California in the case of flooding and the damage it can cause (W. Pierce et al. 5885). Southern California is expected to have a slight decrease in the number of precipitation events, with a very small increase in intense precipitation occurrences (W. Pierce et al. 5885). This means that overall, California will most likely experience less annual rainfall, but events of precipitation will be more intense at times (W. Pierce et al. 5885). From this information, it can be concluded that there is a strong possibility of more flooding in California, especially for the Northern side. It can also be concluded that there will indeed be more days with no precipitation.
Turning to a different aspect of this subject of the climate warming, it is important to consider how ecosystems are adapting to this in California. According to the article by multiple authors, Predicting consequences of climate change for ecosystem functioning: variation across trophic levels, species and individuals, species’ reactions to rising temperatures vary. To test this, the members of this study conducted an experiment on three Californian marine species, A. Lacertosa (otherwise known as the sea flea), A. Sectimanus (a small crustacean), and A. Angusta (another small crustacean). The experiment was conducted to observe potential effects that increased temperature had on these species’ biomass (overall mass of the species in the trial). Only one of the species, A. Lacertosa, had a dramatic increase in biomass with increasing temperatures. This experiment only accounts for a very small amount of marine life but it is important because it shows that temperature affects species in different ways. This was apparent later in the study when Ulva (otherwise known as sea lettuce) was negatively affected by temperature increase, as the A. Lacertosa’s dramatic population increase led to the Ulva being consumed faster than it could grow (J. Best et al.). According to the article, Adapting California’s Ecosystems to a Changing Climate, other ecosystems have different concerns, for instance, endangered desert species “such as the desert tortoise . . ., the desert bighorn sheep . . ., and the Mohave ground squirrel” are potentially even more at risk due to the warming climate and reduced precipitation (Chornesky et al. 252). While these species are a very small percentage of those effected by climate change, the danger that this issue presents for ecosystems is the dramatic altering that can occur. Ecosystems are important because they aid humans with “water storage and delivery, flood protection, nutrient cycling, carbon storage . . .,” and if they change, they may not be able to provide humans with those benefits (Chornesky et al. 247).
Now that some of the effects of climate change have been discussed, data on human influence on California’s climate will be provided. The main type of climate change discussed so far has been global warming. This just so happens to be the main type of climate change that humans have influenced. To understand this, one must understand greenhouse gases, which are gases that allow the atmosphere to absorb and keep in heat. Greenhouse gases have always been around, Earth wouldn’t even be habitable without them, but they can have some negative effects when excessive amounts are in the atmosphere. The use of fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases, as an energy source originally became widespread during the industrial revolution. That trend is still in play and continues to allow the emission of these gases into the atmosphere. This accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere is one of the causes of the increased average worldwide temperature. As mentioned before, greenhouse gases allow the absorption and containment of heat in the atmosphere. To back this up, Dr. Mark Trexler states in the article, Prospects for Future Climate Change and the Reasons for Early Action, that many “human activities contribute to the GHG emissions that are linked to global climate change” (Edgerton et al. 1393). To clarify, GHG stands for ‘greenhouse gas,’ and Trexler is saying that a lot of daily activities require energy that produces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change both worldwide and in California. This should be a concern for all Californians because this is something for which nearly all citizens of the state are partially responsible.
There are various ways in which climate change has affected various environmental subjects such as the adapting of ecosystems, shifting weather patterns, and the increasing frequency of wildfires. These data should be useful for ordinary Californian citizens who aren’t familiar with climate change. A brief idea was given of how wildfires are becoming more frequent with the warming California’s climate and human population growth, but predictability of these events is limited (L. Mann et al. 2). Ecosystems are affected by the rising temperatures differently, some are thriving and even overproducing, while others struggle (J. Best et al.). The weather itself is changing in California, people can expect less rainy days, but when it does rain, it might be quite a drenching (W. Pierce et al. 5885). The factor of human influence on the climate has been backed by a scientific article, so from that it can be concluded that humans are partially responsible for the climate change we are experiencing today, mainly global warming (Edgerton et al. 1393). The climate change discussion an is important one, and we need to keep it going. While not all consequences of this phenomenon are negative, there are some serious factors to consider, like global warming. In the article, Prospects for Future Climate Change and the Reasons for Early Action, Dr. Alberto Ayala contends that, “Continued warming is inevitable, but the world needs to greatly reduce its GHG emissions to avoid catastrophic effects on many sectors of the California economy. These effects include increases in the number of extreme heat days by up to a factor of 10 by the end of the century. Climate change will also make meeting our goals to improve air quality much more difficult to achieve” (Edgerton et al. 1391). By this he means that there is a potential danger to the rising temperature, and humans have the power to prevent a potentially disastrous future by simply reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
Best, Rebecca J., et al. “Predicting Consequences of Climate Change for Ecosystem Functioning: Variation across Trophic Levels, Species and Individuals.” Diversity & Distributions, vol. 21, no. 12, Dec. 2015, pp. 1364–1374. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/ddi.12367. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=110641619&site=ehost- live
This article is a brief summary of experimental data from trials involving certain marine animals. The aim of the experiment was to determine how rising temperature has an effect on various species. I am using this source to provide data on how global warming has an effect on ecosystems. The study was conducted by Bodega Marine Laboratory & Department of Evolution and Ecology, University of California, Davis CA, so I assume it is credible, it is also peer reviewed and scholarly.
Chornesky, Elizabeth A., et al. “Adapting California’s Ecosystems to a Changing Climate.” BioScience, vol. 65, no. 3, Mar. 2015, pp. 247–262. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=101371938&site=ehost-live.
This article is about climate change and its role in changing ecosystems. Also discussed in this article is how humans are acting to protect certain ecosystems from being altered in a negative manner. I am using this article to discuss a few more species that are affected by climate change. This article had numerous authors, all of which having affiliations with environmental departments, so I assume it is credible. Also, this is a scholarly, peer reviewed article.
Edgerton, Sylvia A., et al. “Prospects for Future Climate Change and the Reasons for Early Action.” Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (Air & Waste Management Association), vol. 58, no. 11, Nov. 2008, pp. 1386–1400. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3155/1047-3222.214.171.1246. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=a9h&AN=35128410&site=ehost-live
This article compiles the comments of multiple environmental experts. Future implications of climate change and human impacts on climate are discussed. I am using this article to add credibility to statements made in my paper and to explain how humans have influenced the climate. The authors are from various Universities, institutes, and environmental departments, so I assume they are credible. This also a peer reviewed, scholarly article.
Mann, Michael L., et al. “Incorporating Anthropogenic Influences into Fire Probability Models: Effects of Human Activity and Climate Change on Fire Activity in California.” Plos One, vol. 11, no. 4, Apr. 2016, p. e0153589. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153589. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=cmedm&AN=27124597&site=ehost-live
This article discusses in great detail the fact that climate change is not the only influence on increased fire activity. This source brings to light the fact that humans are the ignitors of most fires in the state of California. I am using this source to give evidence of climate change being a partial cause of the increasing intensity of wildfires, while also taking into account human influence as well. The numerous authors are associated with various environmental departments, so I assume it is credible. This article is also scholarly and peer reviewed.
Pielke Jr., Roger A. “What Is Climate Change?” Issues in Science & Technology, vol. 20, no. 4, Summer 2004, pp. 31-34. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=a9h&AN=13872536&site=ehost-live.
This article uses several definitions of climate change formulated by scientific departments to give the reader an idea of what climate change is. Also discussed in this article is the fact that scientist sometimes have differing views on how to define climate change. I am using this article simply to define my topic of climate change. The author is the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, so I assume he is credible. This is also a peer reviewed, scholarly article.
Pierce, David W., et al. “The Key Role of Heavy Precipitation Events in Climate Model Disagreements of Future Annual Precipitation Changes in California.” Journal of Climate, vol. 26, no. 16, Aug. 2013, pp. 5879–5896. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-12- 00766.1. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx? direct=true&db=a9h&AN=89587578&site=ehost-live
This article discusses the future rates and intensities of precipitation in California. Climate models are used and explain that there will probably be more dry days in the future, but rainy days might be more intense. I am using this article to explain the influences that climate change has in weather patterns in California. The various authors are all associated with Universities of California, with one exception being from the California Energy Commission, Sacramento, so I assume this is a credible source. This is also a peer reviewed, scholarly article.
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