What evidence of rapid environmental change can be identified locally, nationally, and globally?
Evidence of climate change tends to be accumulated gradually over the course of a number of years. Consequently, identifying evidence of “rapid” change is subject to broad and varying interpretations of data. That said, there is evidence of climate change at the local, national and global levels that can be identified with a high degree of certainty.
At the local level, the effects of climate change, even rapid climate change, is evident in the gardens planted and maintained by homeowners, many of whom are noticing distinct differences in the way their plants are growing. Planting and sowing seasons are being altered as a result of climate change, with a concomitant losses in yield per garden. Certain crops dependent upon seasonal transitions that have existed for thousands of years are suddenly responding differently due to greater variations in temperatures and fluctuations in levels of rainfall.
Nationally, evidence of rapid climate change can be seen in the spread of severe weather patterns, including tornados and hurricanes further up the eastern coast of the United States and, in the case of tornados, throughout the Midwest. Regions rarely affected by such events are now having to adapt to a lifestyle historically more associated with tropical regions. Additionally, the atmospheric changes caused by human behavior that contribute to climate change have affected the agricultural industry nationwide. As with local observations, large-scale industrial farming is being adversely affected by climate change, and it is occurring more rapidly than many had anticipated. Entire nations are experiencing declines in agricultural production as a result of protracted cycles of drought and excessive rainfall that causes flooding. Rather than being able to farm according to predictable annual levels of rainfall and intermittent dry periods, many regions are increasingly witnessing more severe droughts following by more severe flooding.
Globally, evidence of rapid climate change can be seen in the rate at which the polar ice caps are shrinking due to higher average temperatures, and the extent to which species of marine life are disappearing as a direct result of increased levels of salinity in the oceans caused by man-made activities. In addition, climate change is negatively affecting the growth and survival of coral reef systems that are vital to the survival of many species of fish, including species that provide subsistence levels of food production for indigenous peoples around the world. Finally, increasing temperatures are causing greater levels of desertification in arid regions already prone to severe droughts. As previously fertile agricultural land is eroded and taken over by spreading deserts, the result is decreased food production in regions that cannot afford to see lower crop yields.
These, then are a few examples of evidence of “rapid” climate change.