Tangible examples of the effects of climate change on our planet are often hard to come by, but a few recent, isolated events present the harsh realities of it all too clearly. As the average temperature of the earth increases, a phenomenon known to us all as ‘global warming’, we are beginning to feel the effects of climate change. The increase in strong storms, more jellyfish at the beach than you remember as a child, the number of times people can be overheard celebrating Scotland’s improving weather; these are far from coincidental. On the contrary, these are warnings of our changing environment. It remains difficult to accept these warnings as part of a more general pattern, but as our environment grows ever more hostile to human existence, the warnings are increasingly obvious.
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia generates a staggering $5.1 billion for the Australian economy every year, making it among the more popular tourist sites on the planet. However, in the past 30 years, half of the fascinating swirling, rippling corals that draw so many visitors have disappeared. If the trend continues, which seems highly probable, the coral population will halve once again within the next ten years. Unless you’re in the field of marine biology, or have a special affinity for corals, this news may not disturb you too greatly, however, it is blatantly representative of the increasing speed at which our environment is changing. The same storms and chemical changes to the fabric of our planet that are devastating the Great Barrier Reef also affect our lives.
Another equally demonstrative yet remote example is that of Antarctic and Arctic ice conditions. While watching ice melt may seem as dull as watching paint dry, the former offers a much more severe prognosis. The reality is that in just fifty years of melting, we have lost enough water to provide the UK with water for one thousand years. While citizens of the UK have not traditionally consumed ice shelves directly, the degradation of our frozen world once again exemplifies that the generally intangible concept of global warming is still hard at work and not to be ignored. These two examples may seem reasonably far removed from St. Andrews, but it is important to remember that we all live under the same roof, and global warming is currently getting the better of us.