The Science and Impacts of Climate Change on the Maldives
Science of global warming and climate change
Anthropogenicly produced greenhouse gases has exacerbated global warming. The burning of fossil fuels and deforestation have resulted in almost doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 has increased at a rate of 2.0 ppm/yr., which is much faster than in pre-industrial times (1). This greenhouse gas absorbs long wave radiation heat emanated away from the earth which results in the greenhouse effect a.k.a global warming. Both the increases in CO2 and the increases in temperature have led to rising sea level, due to thermal expansion, rising temperatures in the ocean, and ocean acidification. All three of these factors have a strong effect on marine invertebrates that survive in the ocean surrounding the Maldives. Coral reefs in particular are highly threatened and the corals provide the barrier for the islands, and sustain them. With high temperatures, these corals bleach and are more susceptible to disease which almost always leads to death. Ocean acidification is resulting in lower pH seawater that may make it difficult for calcifying organisms to produce their skeletons. For example, the 1998 El Nino event, resulted in a massive mortality in the reefs surrounding the Maldives, compromising coastal communities which are likely to be more susceptible to major storms. (2) Current and expected impacts
The Maldives, built on the planets most endangered ecosystems, coral reefs, are one of the lowest lying countries in the world. These two factors combined with the lasting effects of climate change make the country extremely vulnerable to destruction. The countries highest point is only 2.4 meters above sea level, and inhabitants are already experiencing environmental stresses. As the earth’s temperature increases, polar ice caps melt (in Greenland and western Antarctica), creating a slow but drastic rise in sea levels. Rising sea-levels not only threaten the country’s economy, but its entire existence. With global warming and rising sea levels threatening the economy, protests are likely to create violence and dangerous living conditions as well. Tourism makes up over 28% of the country’s GDP, and more than 60% of the Maldives foreign exchange. However, the nation is close to broke, spends over a quarter of their GDP on fuel, and pays colossal subsidies to keep energy bills affordable. Furthermore, the population’s contribution to the planet-warming carbon emissions is insignificant, and they are hooked on diesel to keep their generators running. With no capital or expertise to deliver solar power, the country faces its biggest challenge: apathy. Many of the inhabitants of the Maldives cannot swim (especially the women), and have no idea about the beautiful and vital ecosystem lying below the seas surface. Sea levels are already rising, erosion, wave action, and subductions are already taking place as residents have been relocating from marginal islands to better protected ones. The sea levels are expected to rise anywhere from 9 to 37 centimeters, as beach erosion and powerful storm surges degrade the ecosystem. Coral Reefs
Rising ocean temperatures, levels, and acidity threaten the existence of the Maldives. As the ocean temperature increases, the CO2 in the ocean increases, and the ocean becomes more acidic. Corals are very sensitive to changes in the ocean, and as it becomes more acidic, these corals will become diseased and die. This in turn will not only effect tourism rates fueling the Maldivian economy, but will also affect the country in that it will most likely sink due to erosion and the fact that it is built upon coral reefs. The ocean threatens every habitat from humans to plants, and while humans can easily be relocated, the biodiversity and species loss would upset the natural balance of the ecosystem. While the countries land area starts to disappear,...
Citations: "Carbon Dioxide in Earth 's Atmosphere." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 05 Oct. 2013.
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