What do you think about when you hear the phrase “climate change”? For most of us, it’s an issue that we hear about often but simply brush off. In reality, climate change is a problem that should concern everybody, especially outdoor enthusiasts.
Lets just look at a few facts…
- 97% of scientists agree that the rising global temperature is a direct result of human interaction
- 16 of the hottest years on record took place between 2000 and 2017
- The 9 most devastating wildfires in American history took place after the year 2000
- Ocean acidity has increased by 30% over the last 100 years
- 8 inch rise in global sea level over the last decade
Climate change isn’t just some myth you hear on the news. Whether you are a hiker, fisherman, snowboarder, or scuba diver, climate change is affecting the terrain that you currently enjoy. In this post we dive deeper into a few ways climate change is affecting outdoor recreation and what we can do about it.
Wondering how you can join the fight against climate change? Donating to environmental groups is a great way to support organizations that work 24/7 to negate the detrimental effects of rising temperatures.
Effects of Climate Change on Outdoor Recreation
Here are a few of the most prominent changes currently taking place in the environment:
1. Ocean Acidification
As industrial and agricultural activities release CO2 into the atmosphere, a percentage is absorbed by the world’s oceans. Initially, this was thought to be a good thing since it had little effect on the overall balance of the ocean.
Recently, though, scientists have discovered that the absorption of CO2 is changing the chemistry of seawater. Real, chemical changes are taking place as a result of our carbon dioxide emissions.
So what does this mean for outdoor recreation? Coral reefs are dying at an unprecedented pace. Shelled animals such as oysters, clams, mussels, and starfish are finding it harder and harder to build shells. Fish are developing reproductive problems. The effects of ocean acidification can be felt far and wide.
2. Coastal Erosion
A combination of higher temperatures, extreme weather, and rising sea levels creates the perfect storm for shoreline erosion. But why does this matter?
Studies on coastal erosion is the Gulf South have led to these findings:
- Migratory birds will fly further north due to loss of habitat, leading to reproduction problems
- Decreased population of local fish and shellfish
- Marsh deer will be pushed out of their habitat, into cities
- Loss of unique plant life
This study only looks at one specific part of the Unites States. Now, imagine the effects of coastal erosion on a global scale.
3. Negative Impacts on Wildlife
Perhaps the most devastating effect of climate change is its impact on wildlife. In fact, 2016 marked the first official extinction of a mammal due to the impacts of climate change. The Melomys rubicola, a mouse-like rodent native to an island off Australia’s coast, was the unfortunate first victim of global warming.
Here are a few other species feeling the pressure of climate change:
- Polar bear: The life of a polar bear is full of trials and tribulations. According to National Geographic, the ice on which polar bears hunt is becoming increasingly sparse. Hunting grounds are melting earlier in the summer and returning later in the winter, forcing bears to explore new food sources.
- Adélie penguin: These Antarctic penguins are another victim of disappearing sea ice. As ice sheets shrink, so does the population of krill (a vital source of food for hundreds of species, including the Adélie Penguin). In response, penguins must travel further and expend more energy in search for food, dramatically reducing breeding rates.
- North Atlantic cod: Cod populations have fluctuated dramatically over the last few decades, mostly due to overfishing. That being said, their populations usually rebound relatively quickly – until recently. Changing currents and the influx of chilly Arctic waters have prevented Cod from bouncing back after their most recent crash.
4. Extreme Weather
According the the Union of Concerned Scientists, there is irrefutable evidence that human-caused climate change is increasing the prevalence of heat waves and coastal flooding. In addition, climate change also has close ties with extreme participation events and severe droughts.
Even in the United States, the amount of rainfall during the largest one percent of storms has risen by 20%. Needless to say, the effects on climate change on large weather events can be felt far and wide.
5. Bleaching of Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are a massive worldwide attraction, contributing billion of dollars to the global economy each year. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, generates an astounding $6.4 billion per year in tourism revenue.
In reality, the issue with coral bleaching is much more harrowing than just lost dollar signs. Rising temperatures, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events are killing coral colonies that date back millions of years – at a rate never before seen in history.
6. Rainforest Die-Backs
According to Mongabay, recent changes in temperatures, weather patterns, and rainfall distributions are transforming rainforests into dry, fire-prone savannas – but why does this matter?
Here are a few reasons why rainforests are one of the important ecosystems on earth:
- Rainforests house the largest percentage of animal species: Over 50% of earths species make their home in rainforests. Unfortunately, these animals are facing extinction rates 400 times higher than any other time in history.
- Rainforests help reduce the impacts of the greenhouse effect: Rainforests are incredibly efficient at converting CO2 – the driver of climate change – into usable oxygen. In fact, the Amazon Rainforest alone produces more than 20% of the worlds oxygen.
- Rainforests are a massive resource for modern medicines: Researchers estimate that less that 1% of rainforest plants have been tested for medicinal qualities. Amazingly, 25% of modern prescription medicines are made from plants originally discovered in rainforests. He impact of climate change and deforestation on modern medicine can’t be understated; how many life-saving medicines have already been wiped out of existence?
7. Rising Number of Wildfires
In a recent study, the Union of Concerned Scientists noted the “perfect storm” of conditions is brewing in our forests. Rising temperatures, reduced rainfall (in certain areas), and early snow melt has dramatically increased the prevalence and severity of wildfires since the 1980’s.
In fact, wildfires burn five times longer and occur four times as often compared to the base study between 1970 and 1986.
Unfortunately, these numbers are only expected to get worse as global temperatures rise.
8. Shrinking Water Supplies
Climate change isn’t only effecting the ice caps and rainforests. The effects of climate change can be felt right in our backyard.
Over a 4 year span in the early 2000’s, water levels in Lake Mead (the largest water supply in the US) dropped lower than ever before – and they still haven’t recovered. This drought is largely due to rising temperates, overuse, and lack of precipitation.
The Lake Mead/Colorado River drought is an important issue, not only because it effects vital water levels, but because it brings to light the devastating effects and prevalence of hot droughts.
9. Destruction of Fisheries around the Globe
As we explained earlier, ocean acidification and rising water temperatures have devastated century-old coral colonies. Corals aren’t the only creatures to take the hit, though – fish populations have also declined sharply over the last few decades, and here is why:
As waters warm, zooplankton and cope-pods move north in search of cooler temperates. Though tiny, these creatures are the pillar of any healthy fishery – a pillar that larger fish can’t live without. This shrinking food supply combined with global overfishing has decimated the population of native species such as
10. Glacial Changes
Most of us know that arctic glaciers are melting – but how fast is this actually happening and what does it mean for outdoor enthusiasts?
To put this issue into perspective, we are going to analyze the Glacier National Park – established by President Taft in 1910. At the time of establishment, Glacier National Park was home to over 150 glaciers. Now, a century later, only about 30 remain. To make matter worse, experts estimate that the remaining glaciers will be gone within 30 years. The world is experiencing glacial melt at levels never before seen, and people are to blame.
Source: The Big Thaw
Climate change affects more than just ice caps and rainforests – it affects the environment in our very own back yards. Yet, for most Americans, it seems like a far-off worry.
So what can we do to help fight climate change? Above all, spreading the word is a great way to increase awareness – which is the main reason for this article. One individual may not be able to singlehandedly stop climate change, but as a community we can.
In addition, donating to environmental groups is a great way to fund to fight. Here are a few great groups to look into: