50 years - Our future
Global warming is an issue that will have to be solved sooner rather than later. Between 2031 and 2060, the annual average temperature in Europe will raise (in a best case scenario) up to 2° Celsius – in southern Austria and souther Europe even up to 2,5° C. The result will be heat waves (which will take its toll on temperature sensitive people) and dry periods, the lack of rain making it harder for crops and plants to grow. There might be shortages on bread and other products made of wheat and other crops. 2° C does not sound much? Will animals like cows, sheeps and horses that do not get enough to eat and have to starve agree to that? Will people that are going to be affected by floods agree with that? Will people not affected by floods but by drinking water shortages agree to that? Probably not. Peasants will have to react and cultivate millet instead of wheat, which is more temperature resistent. Forest rangers will have to change the types of trees in their forests. While European beeches will be able to withstand higher temperatures, European spruces – according to experts - will not be.
Animals that are already on the Red List of endangered creatures will probably be extinct by the year 2060 if the climate change is not stopped and the protection of those animals not amplified. In Austria, the Red List contains animals such as the crested newt, the Eurasian spadefoot toad, the European green lizard, common wall lizard and the dice snake. On the brink of extinction in Austria is the European Terrapin, the sand viper and the meadow viper. Do you really want to loose these precious animals?
The deforestation that is happening all over the world it not helping to stop climate change either. If we continue cutting them down at the same rate we do now, in 2050, 230 million hectar will disappear (and that is a size of 460 million soccer fields!!!). Trees are not only important to absorb carbon dioxide, they also give living environment to a lot of different kind of animals, like birds, monkeys, tigers and many more. Speaking of tigers. Did you know that in 2010, only 3,200 tigers still existed in the wild? Only 100 years ago, there were more than 100,000. If no action is taken to save them, in 2060 no more tigers will live on this planet. They will not even make it to the next year of the tiger in 2022.
But not only the raise of the atmospheric temperature will be an issue, the rise of the water temperature is also going to be a problem.
Already, the North Pole has lost 10 % of its pack ice surface within the last 30 years. Until the end of the 21st century, its surface might loose up to 50 %, with it reducing the living space of polar bears, different penguin and seal species. The melting of not only the Arctic (North Pole) but also the Antarctica (South Pole) might result in an increase of the water level up to 8 meters (if both North and South Pole were to melt entirely the water level would rise up to 64 meters!). Islands would disappear, countries would become smaller and decrease the living environment of animals and humans. The atmospheric temperature would rise even more, since the (melted) ice will no longer be able to reflect the sun.
And that is not all. Not only will the Antarctic krill – which is the staple diet of many fish an wales who would loose their food – be a victim of higher water temperatures, also corals will suffer severely from the rise.
The crisp pillow coral and the elegance coral, as well as other tropical coral reefs, might be extinct by 2050 according to experts of the London Zoo, if the water temperature is continuing to increase. Why are these underwater ecosystems so important you might ask? For one, they are a natural protection against surf. If it were not for coral reefs, villages close to the beach could not exist for the waves would destroy them. Furthermore, islands and beaches would be denuded faster than they are.
Coral reefs are also the habitat and the spawning ground of many different kind of fish, mussels and shellfish. The reason why so many organisms can survive there is the fact that coral reefs absorb carbon dioxide, not only from the water but from the air as well.
Another important fact is that coral reefs are also the source for many important medications and experts even put high hopes into coral organisms to produce substances that slow the impact of aids and cancer.
These are only a few reasons why coral reefs are so important and why they need to be protected. In 2010, Australia complained that the climate change is responsible for the bleaching of its coral reef around the Lord-Howe-islands. The bleaching of corals is the first sign that a coral reef is not intact and that action has to be taken or it will be lost forever.
You ask yourself what else can happen within the next 50 years?
Aside from the impacts of global warming and climate change, there is also to mention the fact that the oil in place is getting smaller and smaller. Some experts say the reserves will last only 20 more years, other experts say they will last another 40 to 50 years. But what will happen, when there is no more oil to drill? Where will we get our energy from? How will we warm up our houses and appartements? How will we drive our cars?
Do you want to live in a scenario as mentioned above? Do you want your children to face such a future? Sure, it might sound farfetched and drastic at times and who really knows how our planet adjusts (or does not adjust) to these changes? The fact remains though that if things do not change, the future – if not in 50 years, then maybe in 80 or 100 years – will be a grim one.
Instead of burying your head in the sand now, let me tell you that it is not too late to change something. Alternatives for crude oil exist, renewable energies are and will further be explored and applied. Massive deforestation has to stop and reforestation has to be encouraged by governments all over the world. Many societies, ecological groups and businesses work on saving and reforesting the rain forest and other forests. They will create new habitats for crawling creatures, repitles, endangered birds and orangutans. Not to forget the tigers, of course. The WWF's goal is to double the number of tigers to 6,400 until 2022.
And each and every one of us can do something – starting with saving energy, recycling and using renewable energies – to make this world a better place. To guarantee that we and our children and our children's children will have a great life 50 years from now. And to ensure that in 50 years, the crested newt and the sand viper will still live in Austrian lakes and forest.
Article by Nathalie W.