Connection Between Polar Bears and Climate Change

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Each year, thousands of families across the globe are displaced from their homes due to extreme weather conditions. These extreme weather disasters include hurricanes, drought, floods, and tornadoes. Climate change has become a huge environmental issue throughout our society in the most recent years. As the temperature starts to rise and the weather becomes more extreme, the more hurricanes can occur. “Low-lying cities and towns near coasts will most probably face increased risks from more frequent and more intense hurricanes, cyclones, and storm surges causing flooding, direct injury, and damage to infrastructure, including roads, housing, water, and sanitation systems (Friel et al., 2011, p.887).” Not only do hurricanes destroy homes, but they can destroy vegetation and the water supply as well. Hurricanes pollute water with bacteria that is carried over which causes it to become undrinkable. If it is consumed, many infections can be spread throughout the community that may even lead to death.

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“Scientists with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies released a startling finding: each of the first 6 months of 2016 were the warmest occurrences of their respective months in modern history.” Since the scientists of NASA were able to compare Earth’s temperature during these months with the previous years, it is able to show us a significant change within the environment. This finding shows us how climate change is already affecting the environment around us, making living conditions worse for humans. They believe that due to the rate at which the climate temperature is increasing, it will indeed cause harm to human health. Throughout the years, the Arctic has begun to warm faster than the rest of the world, losing more of its sea ice each year. Many believe that the cause of this is due to the increase of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere that has led to the warmth. The warming of the Arctic each year gives us an idea of how much our planet is warming as a whole.

Since the weather is becoming warmer every year, it leads to longer hot days and longer heat waves. With more heat waves occurring, the risk of more health-related problems increases. Whenever a major heat wave hits a particular location, there is usually a great number of people in need of medical assistance due to a stroke or organ damage resulting from the extreme heat. People who have a job that requires them to work outside or those who play sports in the summer during extreme heat exposes a huge health threat. If they are outside for too long not being well hydrated, there is a high chance that they can have a heat stroke. When your body knows that it is overheating, it’s first response is to sweat which is a cooling effect on the body. Once someone is exposed to heat for too long, the first thing that your body does is shut down the ability to sweat. Due to this, your body becomes too overwhelmed, not being able to cool itself off which is what leads to a heat stroke. For those that survive any extreme heat stroke most likely will have permanent health issues in the years followed.

As the weather changes, so does the air quality in the atmosphere. “Climate change contributes to the frequency and extent of extreme heat, unhealthy air quality, reduced water and food quality, and exposure to infectious agents .” Climate change increases the amount of pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that thrive in warm waters. Bacteria and viruses make humans sick, affecting their health by killing off good cells within the body. As humans begin to burn more fossil fuels such as coal and oil, more carbon dioxide is released into our atmosphere which is known to be one of the heat-trapping gases. For example, cars are one of the largest pollutants to our environment. Too much of these gases can cause Earth’s atmosphere to warm up due to all of the heat that has been trapped. Higher temperatures lead to an increase of unhealthy allergens and harmful air pollutants making it extremely difficult for some people to breathe. The longer that the warmer seasons are, the longer allergy season is as well. Pollen is one of the most popular allergies that people are allergic to. The more that there is, the more allergic reactions and asthma episodes will occur.

“Unhealthy air quality because of weather-related ground-level ozone and wildfires is already affecting the quality of life in vulnerable communities- likely increasing morbidity and mortality risks from cardiovascular and respiratory disease .” Wildfires create an enormous amount of smoke and other unhealthy air pollutants that affect the air that humans breathe. Wildfires also emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that continues to warm the planet. Since trees help to reduce the amount of CO2 in the air and release oxygen back into it, they are able to balance out the atmosphere. Since wildfires damage trees, the less there are, the more greenhouse gases will continue to exist in the atmosphere. Not only do wildfires destroy our atmosphere from the chemicals that are released, but they destroy many homes as well leaving humans homeless for months or even years.

The recurrence of outrageous weather such as hurricanes and wildfires drive individuals from their homes that can eventually separate families which may lead to hunger and poverty. Droughts end up affecting millions of people at a time, hitting the agricultural businesses significantly hard. In most developing countries, the agriculture industry is the primary food source. If that is affected harshly, so are the people within that particular area as well. As the temperature starts to rise and the weather becomes more extreme, the poorest and most vulnerable families are the ones who are the most affected by this. Those who live in poverty or do not make as much money as the middle class struggle even worse during the summer which also causes exposure to extreme heat. Having Air Condition is a huge cost that not everyone can afford. “Low-income urban populations are among the most vulnerable to food price increases, as they generally depend on the market for their food supplies and have limited budgets .” As climate change brings on more floods and droughts into these countries destroying their food supply, the price of the remaining food begins to increase, where access to it becomes more difficult to those who are not able to afford it.

Aquatic ecosystems are critical to our environment. They are able to recycle nutrients, purify water, and provide many habitats for wildlife. Due to climate change, aquatic systems have been threatened by human activities. Human activities affect aquatic ecosystems by affecting natural patterns because the species are not able to adapt to the rapid changes to their environment that occur. Human health and many activities are dependent on the health of aquatic ecosystems. Most of the water that we drink is taken from lakes or rivers. If the lake or river system is not healthy due to pollution, the water will not be drinkable and unsuitable for the industry or agriculture. Coral Reefs are known to support the highest marine biodiversity in our oceans. Across the world, there have been reports about Coral Reefs being damaged beyond repair, making this a huge global issue. We depend on many aquatic plants and animals for our survival. For example, many aquatic organisms such as bacteria and fungi are able to break down harmful toxins. The world’s food supply is dependent on a select few of species of plants and animals. If these changes in the climate continue to occur, they pose serious threats for many different services that provide to human population.

Not only are humans greatly affected by climate change, but so are many animals as well. It can be challenging for many species to adapt to a new environment if theirs has been destroyed. One animal species that is popular with how much their lives have changed due to the impacts of climate change are polar bears. They are tremendously dependent on sea ice, which makes them vulnerable to endangerment if they are not able to fully adapt to their changing climate. Each year, there is a significant drop in their population. Due to a lot of sea ice melting, polar bears are forced to swim for miles in search for more ice. Swimming for consecutive miles results in many of them being too tired to go on, using up all of their energy. For these reasons, a majority of them end up drowning. Not only are the adult bears affected by this, but so are their cubs. Many have to take this exhausting journey with their mothers, but nearly half do not make it the entire way.

The Arctic sea ice has been declining every year making our sea level rise. Due to all of the sea ice melting, the sea level has begun to rise. Many countries have been affected by this, where most of their land closest to the water no longer exists, such as small islands or even countries. Coastal flooding does not only destroy homes, but farmland as well. The sea level rise can have extreme effects on habitats that live close to the water such as birds, fish, and plants. Higher sea levels contribute to more dangerous hurricanes, carrying more water and stronger winds while moving at a slower pace across particular locations as a huge threat. If the sea level continues to rise, many communities will be forced to move to a different location abandoning their homes.

Climate change will continue to be a constant threat to humanity if nothing is done to prevent it from getting any worse. We are all well aware of the outcome that can occur if we do not begin to change our actions. Most of our weather is now connected to climate change, making days hotter and rain heavier. Most of the changes in weather are almost certainly due to greenhouse gases caused by humans. If nothing changes within the next few years, we will experience extreme weather conditions that exceed what has occurred so far. It is only a matter of time to save what we have destroyed. 

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