The world around us is constantly changing. Our evolving planet is virtually unrecognisable from the way it looked just 50 years ago with increasing urbanisation and deforestation responsible for much of that. There are obvious, immediate consequences of cutting down forests and replacing them with farms, but beyond loss of habitats for the forest animals there are wider, graver costs. Industrialisation has changed the composition of our air, soil and water and the demands of modern life have meant that land that previously belonged to nature has been claimed or destroyed. The culprit is Climate Change.
Climate Change has become a pet subject of politicians and newscasters, but what exactly is it? Well, Climate Change is a term used to describe the alteration of global temperatures and the cause and consequences of this. While scientists have proved that temperatures have fluctuated throughout history, in this case there is a clear cause and that is industrialisation.
Most people in the developed world travel in a vehicle of some sort, be it a car, train, bus or monster truck. The food we eat is harvested by combines, moved by tractors, flown to the UK by planes and brought to our supermarkets in vans. Though great strides have been made in developing electric and hybrid motors it’s fair to say that most methods of transport that we use every day are powered by fossil fuels like petrol and diesel. This means that the carbon in the fuels is bonded with oxygen and turned into carbon dioxide, one of the “Greenhouse Gases”. The Greenhouse Gases (carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour, chlorofluorocarbons, nitrous oxide and ozone) prevent the sun rays that would usually bounce back into space by creating a barrier and reflecting them back towards the Earth. This works like a greenhouse in making the Earth warmer.
Other causes of Greenhouse Gases are deforestation (cutting down trees for agriculture or urban development) and industrial farming itself produces a great deal of methane, particularly cows raised for meat and dairy. The rainforests have suffered as they have been replaced by farms and plantations, palm oil in particular being lucrative as it is used in a staggering number of products from body wash to ice cream. Huge tracts of land have been claimed for this purpose. As a result some eco-conscious companies have made a stand in electing to use ethically sourced palm oil, but as it is used in so many products these few companies aren’t really making a dent.
In fact, on Earth, the temperature has risen 1°c over the last 100 years and is predicted to go up by 2°c more in the next 100 years. This might not seem like too much on the face of it, and after August’s cold snap some might think that a warmer planet might be rather nice! Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that. The rise in temperature actually means that weather is likely to get more extreme, so while summer might get warmer, winter is going to get colder, storms will get wilder and winds will get stronger.
The change in the weather has been shown to have had strange results on the animals. Many animals are not growing to be as large as usual, possibly in an attempt to stay cool in rising temperatures. Fish stocks that prefer colder climates have been moving northwards, to where it’s colder. The loss of sea ice is making it harder for polar bears to catch prey. Even in South America the sea turtles are being challenged as it has been proven that the temperatures have an effect on the sex of hatchlings: colder areas make males, warmer ones make girls. If this is thrown too far out of balance it could have ramifications in the future for breeding.
Aside from that, the rise in temperatures mean that the ice caps are melting, and this has further repercussions than bothering the penguins. The Artic has the fastest rising temperature of any other region. There is a lot of carbon dioxide (one of the “Greenhouse Gases” that contribute to climate change) trapped in glaciers and, as they melt, that is getting released and creating a vicious cycle; the more CO2, the higher the temperature. The higher the temperature, the more the ice caps melt. The more the ice caps melt, the more CO2 and so on. It’s a situation that’s only going to get worse.
The effects on the landscapes, both artic and forested, directly impact the lives of the animals who live in it. The higher temperatures lead to higher likelihood of droughts and bush fires and, with wooded areas already under threat by loggers, this just adds to the list of challenges that wild animals face in the fight for survival. Water and food scarcity and the battle for space is becoming increasingly harsh. Orang-utans, tigers and pandas are big sufferers here.
Climate Change is a global concern and, as such, requires global action. While governments need to put measures into place to prevent further damage to the atmosphere and the landscapes we can all do our bit to help by reducing our use of fossil fuels (walking/cycling more often as opposed to driving) and reducing our carbon footprint by changing our shopping habits, for example shopping for locally-sourced produce and eating seasonal foods. Campaigns like Meat Free Mondays stress the importance of consuming less meat and, by extension, reducing the amount of methane released as a result of the beef industry. It is also a good idea to check food and skin care products for palm oil and make sure paper products are certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
We’d like to know what you do at home to reduce your carbon footprint. Do you recycle? Do you walk to work? Why not give us your hints and tips for staying green on Facebook and Twitter! You can find lots of other interesting animal related information on our blog, article and guide pages. Insuring your pet gives you peace of mind that you and your pet will be covered if anything were to happen. Animal Friends offer a range of policies for dogs, cats and horses, and we also insure puppies, kittens and older pets.