The Gas Catalyst of Human Health


Human illness and disease can be attributed to two variables; genetics and environment. This paper will explore the possible environmental effects that air pollution has on the pulmonary functions of the human body. As your lungs are an essential organ to keep a person alive, we should minimize any causes that can harm them. The current population lives in one of the most technologically advanced eras in terms of health care. However, the naivety of some people leaves their knowledge of carbon monoxide and other toxic air pollutants absent.

Keywords: Pulmonary disease, air pollution, carbon monoxide, genetics vs. environment.

The Gas Catalyst of Human Health

Since the mid-19th century industrial boom, air quality has been waxing and waning due to air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ground-level ozone. Each of these pollutants increased during the time period due to industrial emissions, fossil fuel burnings, transportation, and waste production. Unknowingly, this increase not only led to high levels of air pollution, a prominent factor of climate change, but also may have been attributed to several pulmonary issues among humans.

Out of the typical emissions, as stated above, there is a single emission that sticks out the most concerning the others. This emission is carbon monoxide. According to an emission survey that was first conducted in 1970, carbon monoxide has been the leading emission for the past 50 years, which is indicated in figure 1 of Appendix A (Tiseo, 2021). Although it is evident that carbon monoxide emissions are decreasing at a significant rate, the remainder of emissions has remained at a constant rate. According to the Nature Conservancy organization:

The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. To have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.

In order to bring rates down, the world must work together to lower the carbon footprint, a measurement of how much a single person creates carbon compounds.

The majority of carbon monoxide emissions are accredited to gas-powered vehicles. The percentage of emissions has been going down, almost 95% of emissions have been reduced, but a single car with high emissions rates can still be harmful to the environment (Greiner, 1998). With the creation of the sustainable electric vehicles from Tesla, they have created a new era of vehicles that emit no emissions. As more money gets poured into learning how to make them even more affordable, electric cars will soon be the go-to. This will eventually make the carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles minimal to none.

As humans, we want to do the best for our bodies in order to keep them healthy. However, there are some instances where we can’t control what goes into our bodies. Humans require several components and variables to function throughout the day. One of these necessities is the air we breathe. The basic makeup of the air we breathe is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and small percentages of other gasses. Yet, what would happen if the standard composition of the atmosphere was disrupted? Fortunately, the Air Quality Index (AQI) was created. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the AQI was created with the intent to “tell how clean or unhealthy the air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern” (EPA, 2014). The AQI allows us to determine the best course of action and what to look for if the air quality is poor on a particular day.

The importance of air quality strongly relates to our pulmonary and cardiac functions. The primary diseases that are caused by poor air quality include: stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, heart disease, and acute respiratory infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are an estimated 7 million people that die from complications due to air pollution (WHO, 2022). With pulmonary disease being the number three leading cause of death globally, funding and creating a sustainable way to produce clean air is vital for future generations.

Similar to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, air pollution is merely a catalyst when it comes to fatality rates in people with underlying pulmonary diseases. There are several other variables that can account for pulmonary diseases, such as smoking tobacco products. However, a constant flow of poor quality air paired with other underlying factors can prove lethal in the long run. As shown in appendix B, figure 2, pulmonary disease has been on an upward climb for the past 80 years (Crapo, 2019). One of the primary forms of pulmonary disease, COPD, accounts for 20% of 7 million deaths (WHO, 2021).

Air pollution is emitted everywhere but in different densities. The highest densities of air pollution are produced mainly in southern and eastern parts of Asia; Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq (Moya, 2022). Several of the countries listed are also categorized as some of the most impoverished nations. According to University of Washington researcher Anjum Hajat, Ph.D., and her research into the correlation between air pollution and poverty “showed that air pollution is higher in poorer communities” (Failey, 2016). From Hajat’s research, it makes sense that several of these countries that are categorized as impoverished make up a majority of the world’s air pollution.

There are several options both governments and the general population can do to help fight air pollution. The most pronounced government-funded agreement that aims to help alleviate and minimize climate change as a whole is the Paris Agreement. This agreement acts as a way to hold high polluting countries accountable and hold them to create commitments to cut climate pollution (Denchak, 2021). Unfortunately, like many issues in the world, effective change to aid the efforts of fighting climate change comes down to funding. Looking at the American budget, President Joe Biden has pledged $44.9 billion, less than 2% of the total budget, to help the climate crisis (Vahlsing, 2022). Although this may seem like a lot of money, in reality, this is only a penny in the ocean. According to Dr. David Archer, an estimate of “closer to $100,000 per ton of carbon” will be needed to effectively change climate change for good, roughly $185 trillion (Lerner, 2020). With the aid of the United Nations and other countries, this crisis could be solved if put at a higher priority.

As the fight against climate change is a group effort, the world’s population can not only rely on the government to fix it. The role of the people is just as important. Some fundamental changes to daily life that are recommended by the EPA are to always look for ways to conserve energy (EPA, 2022). This can be done by turning off electronics when not in use, carpooling when able, use of non-electric transportation (bicycles), and avoiding gas-powered tools. Making these easy changes in life can be very effective in mass practice.

Air pollution is not only a significant cause of climate change; it is also a cause of the deterioration of respiratory health in humans. The yearly decrease in air quality and increase in carbon dioxide emissions contributes to the millions of mortalities per year due to respiratory diseases and illness. As of now, the government-created acts to fight climate change are not enough as funding is one of the most significant issues. The global population as a whole needs to work together in order to battle this ongoing war against air pollution and climate change.


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Failey, T. (2016, April). Poor communities exposed to elevated air pollution levels. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

Greiner, T. H. (2017, July 27). Carbon monoxide poisoning: Vehicles (AEN-208). Iowa State University. Retrieved April 30th, 2022 from

Ian Tiseo. (2021, March 29). U.S Air Pollutant Emissions by Type 1970-2020. Statista. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

Lerner, L. (2020, September 9). Climate change will ultimately cost humanity $100,000 per ton of carbon, scientists estimate. University of Chicago News. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

Moya, M. J. (2022, March 22). These countries have the most polluted air in the world, new report says. Phys Org. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

Ritchie, H. (2017, April 14). Air pollution: Does it get worse before it gets better? Our World in Data. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

The Nature Conservancy (n.d.) What is your carbon footprint? Retrieved April 30, 2022, from

Vahlsing, C. (2022, April 4). Quantifying risks to the federal budget from climate change. The White House. Retrieved April 30, 2022, from’s%20Budget%20for%20fiscal,60%20percent%20over%20FY%202021.

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Appendix A




Fig. 1 Annual emissions of common pollutants dating from 1970 to 2020.

Appendix B




Fig. 2 Annual data collected of diagnosed pulmonary disease since 1940.

A Natural Wonder in Peril: The Downward Spiral of the Great Barrier Reef and What Must Be Done to Protect It

By Emily Cade


This research essay details information about the Great Barrier Reef and the ways in which it is under threat due to climate change. The research includes general information and facts about the Great Barrier Reef, such as its location, functions, and the wildlife that lives within it. The research also includes coral bleaching; the biggest issue currently plaguing the Great Barrier Reef. It concludes by touching on the decision to keep the Great Barrier Reef off of the endangered sites list, and why scientists believe the reef should be recognized as an endangered site. The research was conducted by looking at multiple credible sources regarding the Great Barrier Reef and climate change.

Keywords: The Great Barrier Reef, coral, coral bleaching, climate change, endangered

A Natural Wonder in Peril

The Great Barrier Reef, widely considered one of the world’s seven natural wonders, is famous for its exquisite beauty and rich, diverse wildlife. Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to visit the Reef and see the wonder personally, but as a consequence of climate change, we have forever lost the privilege of seeing it in its prime. With each passing day, the Reef continues to dwindle away, and while some conservation efforts are being made, it may be too little too late. The World Heritage Committee’s continuous refusal to list the GBR as an endangered site is a significant blow to the hope of keeping the Reef alive. If the Great Barrier Reef is to receive the support it desperately needs, it is imperative that the World Heritage Committee officially recognize it as an endangered site.

Located off the coast of Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is the crown jewel of Australia. Over 3,000 individual corals coexist and dwell in the Coral Sea in an almost unfathomable array of shapes and colors. The GBR is so massive that it is visible even from space. Beyond being a vast, breathtaking sight, the Reef is a natural ecosystem that serves many vital roles, both for its inhabitants and the world. According to the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority, nearly 6,000 living creatures call the Reef home, including sharks, rays, whales, dolphins, jellyfish, worms, mollusks, turtles, and of course corals. Many of these organisms rely on the Reef for food, shelter, and breeding grounds. The Reef is also home to a huge amount of algae, which produce over half of Earth’s oxygen. The BBC (2020) reports that since 1995, half of the corals residing in the GBR have died. As the Reef suffers, so does everything in it.

One of the biggest threats the Great barrier Reef faces is a phenomenon called “coral bleaching.” According to the National Ocean Service, coral bleaching occurs when intense stress from changes such as temperature causes coral to release algae called zooxanthellae, turning the organisms completely white and “bleaching” them. Zooxanthellae have a symbiotic relationship with corals, providing them with both a source of food and their striking colors. When the algae leave the coral, the coral loses key nutrients and in some cases, dies. One of the main causes of coral bleaching is rising water temperatures, largely thanks to global warming. Obviously, a widescale coral bleaching outbreak would result in disaster for the Great Barrier Reef. Sadly, that very misfortune has occurred as recently as 2020.

In the last five years, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered not one, not two, but three mass bleaching events. The most recent outbreak occurred in April of 2020 and left 25% of the reef bleached. This number indicates that 60% of coral living in the reef has now suffered bleaching (Readfearn, 2020.) With over half of the GBR experiencing the effects of coral bleaching, it is clear that action must be taken to turn the situation around. However, the chief scientist at the Great barrier Reef Marine Park, David Wachenfeld, fears these rather depressing statistics may actually lead to inaction. Wachenfeld (2020) says “My greatest fear is that people will lose hope for the reef. Without hope, there’s no action.” It is important to know that the Great Barrier Reef, while at great risk, is not dead. While it will require swift and meaningful action to keep this marvel alive, it is not an impossible task.

The biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef is coral bleaching, which is caused by global warming. Unfortunately, many scientists are of the belief that we are past the point of no return when it comes to the global warming crisis. Our best option now is mitigation and adaptation; to postpone destruction for as long as possible and make changes along with our world. Seeing as we likely aren’t bringing global warming to a stop anytime soon, what else can be done to slow the spread of coral bleaching? An interesting project could serve as a possible solution. “Coral gardening” is a coral restoration process that is conducted by The Reef Restoration Foundation. According to Lara Esposito (2020) of the Climate Institute “…small pieces of coral are taken from Fitzroy Island and suspended from a tree-like structure to promote quick growth.” Within the first seven months of the project, there were already approximately 400 corals in the Foundation’s coral garden. Creative solutions like these could serve to preserve at least some parts of the GBR. Although tragically, it is very unlikely that the Great Barrier Reef will ever be returned to its former glory, there is still hope that it can adapt and live on.

Of course, creative solutions and community action are wonderful things, but the Great barrier Reef also desperately needs government support. There are several conservation measures that have been put in place by the Australian government, but the Reef is still in serious trouble and many scientists believe these efforts fall short. What these scientists are calling for is an official recognition of the Great Barrier Reef as an endangered site, which is a title the Reef has been denied. In 2017, the United Nations World Heritage Committee voted against recognizing the GBR as endangered. While the World Heritage Committee acknowledged that the Reef was at risk, they seemed to believe that Australia’s conservation efforts were sufficient. The decision likely was made to protect the Australian government from political and tourism struggles (Galluci, 2017.) According to the Australia Pacific campaigner for Greenpeace, Alix Foster Vander Elst, “An endangerment listing, as tragic as that would be, would be a more realistic representation of the state of the reef and would at least force the federal government to act on climate change.” An endangerment listing would make it clear that the reef is in real trouble, and the Australian government would have to be more proactive about its conservation.

As reported by Al Jazeera (2021), in 2021, the World Heritage Committee once again voted against endangered status, enraging scientists and environmental activists. David Ritter, the CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific spoke out his frustration with the decision, stating “This is not an achievement- it is a day of infamy for the Australian Government.” Year after year, the Reef continues to suffer and continues to be denied all of the support it could potentially be receiving- the support it desperately needs.  The true reality of the Great Barrier Reef appears to be far grimmer than the reality both the Australian and International governments are seeing, and their denial of the endangered status of the Reef shows that.

To deny that the Great Barrier Reef is in serious waters would be turning a blind eye to a beautiful and vital part of our planet. The Reef provides revenue and culture for the Australian people and serves as a home and haven for such a vast and wonderful array of plants and animals, many of which would be unable to survive outside of the Reef. To simply allow it to fade away and die would cause a cruel and unjust domino effect to be set into motion. The death of the Great Barrier Reef would mean the death of an unfathomable amount of marine life, as well as the loss of an Australian landmark and international treasure. It’s true that the Great Barrier Reef has seen better days, but until we can say we’ve done everything in our power to keep it alive, we cannot give up on it. This is why it is so important that the World Heritage Committee takes action and recognizes the Reef as endangered. With that title, the GBR would be able to receive greater aid than ever before. Even with current and well-meaning conservation efforts, the Reef needs every little bit of help it can be afforded. The Great Barrier Reef is still alive and intact and still waiting for help. Until we’ve exhausted all possible methods, we cannot lose hope for this beautiful natural wonder.


Al Jazeera. (2021, July 24). Great Barrier Reef: Australia avoids UNESCO downgrade | Environment News | Al Jazeera.

Esposito, L. (n.d.). Will the Great Barrier Reef Survive Climate Change? Climate Institute. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Gallucci, M. (2017, July 6). The very much threatened Great Barrier Reef is not “in danger,” UNESCO says. Mashable.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation. (n.d.-a). Climate change. Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Retrieved February 27, 2022, from

Great Barrier Reef Foundation. (n.d.-b). Why do we need coral reefs? Great Barrier Reef Foundation. Retrieved February 27, 2022, from

Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995. (2020, October 14). BBC News.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. (n.d.). Reef facts. Retrieved February 27, 2022, from

Greening Australia. (2020, November 20). Improving water quality to help the Great Barrier Reef. Greening Australia.

National Ocean Service. (n.d.). What is coral bleaching? Retrieved February 27, 2022, from

Readfearn, G. (2021, November 29). ‘Confronting’: Great Barrier Reef faces frequent extreme coral bleaching at 2C heating, research finds. The Guardian.

Readfearn, Graham & Wachenfeld, David. (2020, April 6). Great Barrier Reef’s third mass bleaching in five years is the most widespread yet. The Guardian.




Permafrost Thaw: How Much Methane Is Being Released?

By Jenasie R. Woebbeking



About a quarter of the Arctic regions are covered in permafrost which is frozen ground that has been frozen for two years or more consecutively. Permafrost contains organic matter that is made up of dead plants, animals, and microbes that have been stored for thousands of years. Due to climate change, the Arctic is beginning to warm causing the permafrost to thaw, releasing the decomposition of these organic materials as either carbon dioxide or methane. Without the proper tools and resources, scientists are not sure how much methane or carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere due to this thaw which causes great concern. Since both of these gases are heat-trapping (methane more than carbon dioxide), it leads to a feedback loop that will turn the Arctic into a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. Governments need to come together and fund scientists to complete new studies on how much carbon and what form of carbon will be released into the atmosphere due to permafrost thaw, so they know what actions need to be taken to mitigate the thaw.

Keywords: permafrost thaw, carbon dioxide, methane, arctic, climate change, heat-trapping, research, mitigate


Permafrost Thaw: How Much Methane Is Being Released?

Climate change has been a growing issue for many years. Our climate is warming fast and without an attempt to stop it, we will face detrimental effects of climate change in the future that will not be reversible. Permafrost thaw is one thing that will become irreversible once it begins. Permafrost is frozen ground that has been frozen for at least two or more years consecutively in a row. According to Denchak (2018), permafrost covers about a quarter of the northern hemisphere and extends to beneath the Earth’s surface from a few feet to more than a mile. Permafrost is full of thousands of years of life which causes it to be one of the great stores of global greenhouse gases.

The Arctic is warming at twice the speed as the rest of the Earth which is a great cause for concern. According to Schaefer (2022), “As the Earth warms, scientists worry that some of the carbon in permafrost could escape to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane”. Methane is a more powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, which in turn will warm the planet faster if released into the atmosphere (Plumer 2011). The issue we face is that scientists are not sure exactly how much carbon is stored in permafrost currently and how much of that carbon will be released as methane. Without governments providing more funding to complete new studies of how much methane will be released into the atmosphere, there is not much we can plan to do to slow down the effects that permafrost thaw will have on global warming.

Everything We Need To Know About Permafrost Thaw

Permafrost is found on land and beneath the ocean floor, in areas where temperatures rarely rise above freezing. It is known to be found in Arctic regions such as Greenland, Alaska, Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. According to Denchack (2018), “Permafrost in the Arctic alone is estimated to hold nearly twice as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere now, as well as a sizable amount of methane.”  Permafrost acts like a giant freezer on Earth that keeps a large amount of organic matter frozen. This organic matter includes remains of dead animals, plants, and microbes that were frozen into the ground thousands of years ago. The warming of our climate puts this frozen ground at risk, causing it to thaw not melt which triggers microbes to decompose this organic matter releasing carbon into the atmosphere as either carbon dioxide or methane (Schadel 2020).  Once this matter is decomposed and releases carbon, there is no gaining it back. Overall, this makes permafrost thaw irreversible and defines it as a tipping point.  As the thawing of permafrost releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – melting even more carbon as it is warming the Earth- an unstoppable feedback loop may occur which could turn the Arctic from a carbon sink into a carbon source (Denchak 2018).

The Arctic is considered a carbon sink due to the growing season. The growing season in the Arctic lasts longer when the temperature rises, and warming is taking place. During the longer growing season, the plants have a longer period of time to absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and since plants use the carbon in the air to grow it also sometimes acts as a fertilizer. This then causes plants to grow more quickly and absorb even more carbon. As of now, the plants in the Arctic absorb more carbon during the growing season than they release through decay. So, due to this process, the Arctic behaves as a carbon sink. As the Earth continues to warm, however, and permafrost thaws, the Arctic will act more as a source of carbon than a sink. Once the Arctic emits more carbon than it absorbs due to permafrost thaw, it will lead to increased warming which ultimately means more permafrost thaw and methane release, giving us a feedback loop (Schaefer 2022).

Abrupt Permafrost Thaw

The Arctic’s permafrost thawing and release of greenhouse gases due to this thawing may be sped up by instances of a process called abrupt thawing. Thermokarst lakes are formed when a large amount of ice deep within the soil melts into water. Abrupt thawing takes place under these Arctic lakes (Gray 2018).  This abrupt thaw may only cover 5 percent of the Arctic permafrost but that will likely be enough to double permafrost’s overall contribution to the warming of the planet (Welch 2020). According to Federman (2021), “While thermokarst lakes make up only a small percentage of the Arctic landmass, they could be a significant source of added methane”. Federman also explains that if these methane emissions were included in models currently, the numbers from permafrost thaw would double over the next eighty years.

With methane being a more drastic heat-trapping greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it is important that we learn just how much could be released due to the thaw of permafrost. The release of methane will cause the Earth’s climate to keep warming, causing more permafrost to thaw and more carbon to be released. It is a cause-and-effect loop of the warming feeding the warming and a problem that we will not be able to reverse once it begins. For the time being, models that do project permafrost carbon release are only showing and accounting for gradual permafrost thaw and not abrupt thaw but there are recent estimates that show that abrupt thaw may double the release of carbon (Schadel 2020).

Studies of Methane Release Due to Permafrost Thaw

Scientists have a pretty good idea that there is more than twice the amount of carbon stored in the Arctic soil than what humans have already released into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, researchers do not know how much carbon may be released over time due to permafrost thaw and if it will take the form of methane or carbon dioxide (Federman 2021). The carbon released from permafrost thaw has never been an issue of concern as it is supposed to be permanently frozen ground, but now it is time to worry. As of right now, there is only one thing that is for certain: if we can keep temperatures from rising in the Arctic, the more permafrost will stay frozen. That is a very far stretch as the Arctic is already warming faster than the rest of the Earth. Right now, there is just too much ground covered in permafrost that cannot be seen. Unlike Arctic sea ice which can be measured by satellite, scientists and researchers barely have the tools to measure what is going on with permafrost (Welch 2020).  Since gradual permafrost has not been taken into account by the IPCC, it is safe to say abrupt thaw has not either. Although both are bad and lead to the release of dangerously warming greenhouse gases, abrupt thawing accelerates the threat. Without knowing how much of these greenhouse gases will be released, it is hard to predict what may happen to our planet due to permafrost thaw. It is safe to say the outcome will not be good, especially if we reach an irreversible point of carbon release into the atmosphere. Without a proper solution to this issue, we could be facing a dangerous increase in the effects global warming will have on our planet.

Since permafrost thaw and abrupt thaw are not being thought about or properly accounted for in the bookkeeping, we are not aiming for the right target to mitigate climate change. The planet as a whole needs world leaders to take action and help fund new studies to be done on the research of how much carbon is going to be released into the atmosphere and what form it will take when released. Scientists and researchers need the proper tools and resources viable for studying the parts of the northern hemisphere that are covered in permafrost as well as the thermokarst lakes. Once scientists are able to further study the release of carbon from thawing permafrost, we will have a better idea of how to handle it and hopefully stop the feedback loop it could cause and potentially even put a stop to the thaw.



Denchak, M. (2019, November 21). Permafrost: Everything you need to know. NRDC. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Federman, A. (2021, December 14). Abrupt permafrost thaw has scientists worried. Sierra Club. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Gray, E. (2018, August 20). Unexpected future boost of methane possible from Arctic Permafrost – Climate Change: Vital signs of the planet. NASA. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Plumer, B. (2011, December 19). Permafrost thaw – just how scary is it? The Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Schadel, C. (2021, April 7). Guest post: The irreversible emissions of a permafrost ‘tipping point’. Carbon Brief. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Schaefer, K. (2022). National Snow and Ice Data Center. Methane and Frozen Ground | National Snow and Ice Data Center. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Welch, C. (2021, May 4). The Arctic’s thawing permafrost is releasing a shocking amount of dangerous gases. Science. Retrieved March 20, 2022, from

Saving Shellfish: Geoengineering to Change Ocean Acidification

By Rachel L. Shoebridge



This paper explores ocean acidification and the effect it has on shellfish. Due to anthropogenic carbon emissions, the ocean is warming quickly. The rapid change is causing ocean acidification. Ocean acidification creates difficulty for shellfish to build shells and skeletons. The drastic changes already made to the sea call for more help than humans cutting back emissions. This paper explores different forms of geoengineering to get ocean pH to slow or stop changing. One exceptional form of geoengineering is needed to save shellfish from future extinction.

Keywords: Geoengineering, shellfish, ocean acidification, anthropogenic, carbon dioxide


Saving Shellfish: Geoengineering to Mitigate Ocean Acidification

There are many different issues related to climate change in today’s world. One of those issues that has a highly negative impact on oceans is acidification. Ocean acidification is happening faster than ever due to fossil fuels trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. At first, the ocean taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere was good; now, too much is causing the sea to acidify. These changes negatively affect almost all marine life, one being shellfish. Shellfish use calcium carbonate to build their shells and skeletons, but due to ocean acidification, this necessary life skill is becoming more and more difficult. Although one reasonable option may be for humans to stop using fossil fuels, there is no way of knowing if it is too late to change the rapidly acidifying ocean. Due to the rising amount of acidification in oceans from climate change, geoengineers must take action to save shellfish from extinction.

Ocean acidification directly relates to climate change as it is consequential of a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. According to Jennifer Bennett (2018), a team member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), around a quarter of carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels ends up in the ocean rather than in the air (para. 1). Scientists thought the ocean was doing the earth a favor by soaking up excess CO2 but now realize it is causing drastic changes in the sea. Although the sea is enormous, this extra carbon dioxide will make drastic changes in ocean acidity over time. The ocean is changing too quickly for shellfish to adapt, as they are having a hard time building and keeping their shells due to acidification.

Saving shellfish may seem like a small matter in the ocean acidification crisis, but the impacts of losing them will have drastic effects. Many other sea creatures use shellfish as a food source. If ocean acidification takes out shellfish, it removes a significant food source for other predators. If that is not bad enough, the loss of shellfish due to ocean acidification will take away an excellent food source for humans as well. The shellfish industry is a vast food source worldwide, but ocean acidification is becoming a massive threat to the industry. Eve Zuckoff (2021), a climate change journalist for Cape, Coast, and Islands (CAI), warns that by 2100 the shellfish industry is estimated to lose $400 million annually (para. 12). This information explains the importance of saving the shellfish for the whole world, as the clock is ticking before catastrophe strikes.

Ocean acidification has a life-threatening impact on shellfish. All life forms are sensitive to any slight change in pH, so when ocean pH changes, it harms shellfish. These changes create complications in reproduction, growth, and chemical communication. One of the biggest challenges shellfish are facing against ocean acidification is building their shells. Bennett (2018) explains that hydrogen ions bond with carbonate to create an essential component of calcium carbonate shells, adding that shellfish create calcium carbonate by combining carbonate from the ocean with a calcium ion while releasing water and CO2. In addition, hydrogen ions are more attracted to carbonate than calcium, creating a bicarbonate ion. This forms difficulty for shellfish as they cannot get carbonate from a bicarbonate ion, meaning they cannot grow a new shell (para. 12-14). As carbonate becomes harder for shellfish to find, it becomes harder and harder to build homes. Even when shellfish can make their shells in acidic water, more energy is used, which takes away from the energy needed for other life activities. Ocean acidification can also cause the dissolving of current shells. As a result of these changes threatening the lives of shellfish, geoengineering is their only hope of survival.

Geoengineering involves the manipulation of the biosphere and planetary systems, which could help remove carbon dioxide from the air or acidity from the sea without eliminating carbon emissions. Scientists work to find different ways to use geoengineering to mitigate disasters of a quickly acidifying ocean and climate change. One proposed geoengineering method is adding fertilizers such as iron to the sea to cause a phytoplankton bloom. Bennett (2018) explains: “This phytoplankton would then absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and then, after death, sink and trap it in the deep sea” (para. 55). Although this method shows signs of success, there are unknown risks and factors such as whether it will affect other marine life that uses phytoplankton as a food source. A phytoplankton bloom is just one of many proposed forms of geoengineering that could help in saving shellfish.

Another proposed way of geoengineering is carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the ocean. Phillip Williamson and Carol Turley (2012), geoengineers, stated that CDR-based engineering aims to keep down global warming by offsetting carbon dioxide emissions, which leads toward stabilizing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then adding the likelihood of reaching the international target of CO2 is little to none in just reducing emissions. CDR-based geoengineering could be the answer to finding ocean stabilization once again. However, a downfall of this type of geoengineering is that few techniques of CDR would be able to prevent approximately half of current greenhouse gasses sufficiently (pp. 4329-4332). This means only some improvement can be made with this technique, concluding that any progress is better than none in the ocean acidification crisis.

One more way of geoengineering to mitigate ocean acidification is by alkalinity injection. The study is conducted because the Great Barrier Reef is beginning to acidify due to the anthropogenic use of fossil fuels, leading to climate change. Mongin et al. (2021), a group of environmental scientists, conducted a study called Reversing Ocean Acidification Along the Great Barrier Reef Using Alkalinity Injection. This study aims to see if artificial ocean alkalinization (AOA) can mitigate or reverse ocean acidification. This study showed that reversing decades of ocean acidification could be achievable (para. 1). The downside is that the process is very costly, and there could be unknown risks associated with that amount of alkalinity added to the ocean. Although there is some unknown risk associated with this type of geoengineering, more studying could prove its potential in saving the shellfish.

Ocean acidification directly relates to climate change because of too much carbon dioxide. Both issues are anthropogenic due to fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. One might wonder, why not cut, or stop the use of fossil fuels to end ocean acidification? There is no way to get the entire world on board to stop using fossil fuels right now, which would need to happen to have any hope of restoring the ocean. Of course, every human should strive to cut back on carbon emissions, but without drastic change from everyone worldwide, there is no way to stabilize carbon dioxide in the ocean by just “cutting back.” In addition, even if the world could make a difference in carbon emissions, there would not be an immediate change in ocean acidification. Even if humans were able to stop using fossil fuels successfully, “the climate will continue to change, the atmosphere will continue to warm, and the ocean will continue to acidify” (J. Bennett, 2018, para. 52).  Carbon dioxide lasts even longer in the ocean than it does in the air, causing a dire need for immediate action from the whole world.

In a rapidly changing ocean environment, action must be taken to save the shellfish. Through geoengineering, carbon dioxide can be removed from the ocean to make a stable environment for shellfish and all other marine life, for that matter. As each individual should do their best to release fewer carbon emissions, it is not likely that the use of fossil fuels will come to a complete stop. Instead, using new technology and science, the world should come together to find a form of geoengineering that will drastically change ocean acidity for the better.



Bennett, J. (2018, April). Ocean Acidification | Smithsonian Ocean. Ocean Acidification.

Mongin, M., Baird, M. E., Lenton, A., Neill, C., & Akl, J. (2021). Reversing ocean acidification along the Great Barrier Reef using alkalinity injection. Environmental Research Letters, 16(6), 064068.

Williamson, P., & Turley, C. (2012). Ocean acidification in a geoengineering context. Philosophical Transactions. Series A, Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, 370(1974), 4317–4342.

Zuckoff, E. (2021, February 10). Ocean Acidification Could Wipe Out Shellfish Industry: Report. CAI.

Runaway Climate Change is Already in Progress

By Jackson Monson


Runaway climate change is climate change that occurs without human contribution, rather it is caused by several self-perpetuating feedback loops. These feedback loops are processes that, once started, do not require human contribution to continue. The feedback loops that will be explained include the melting of ice sheets and permafrost, disruptions to ocean circulation and wildlife, and the destruction of land environments. In order for one of these loops to contribute to runaway climate change, it must be a process that is caused by climate change as well as a process that contributes to climate change. A climate change “tipping point” is the point at which a feedback loop becomes self-sustaining and will continue to worsen without external intervention.

Runaway Climate Change is Already in Progress

Climate change has been a global issue for decades, and many countries have taken measures to reduce their carbon output. However, reducing carbon emissions will not be enough to put a stop to climate change. Due to tipping points such as ice sheet and permafrost melting, disruptions to the ocean, and destruction of terrestrial ecosystems global temperatures will continue to rise even without human contribution.

Ice Sheets and Permafrost

Earth’s ice sheets are massive bodies of frozen water located in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica. These ice sheets have all been shrinking due to climate change for decades, according to a senior editor at Yale Environment 360 whose work has been featured in National Geographic, “A 2018 study found that the WAIS[West Antarctic Ice Sheet] went from ice loss of almost 58.5 billion tons a year between 1992 and 1997 to 175 billion tons from 2012 to 2017” (Montaigne, 2012).

The melting of the ice sheets is simply caused by warmer temperatures, and warmer temperatures also cause ice sheets to become unstable, meaning that ice sheets may physically collapse into the ocean. Ice shelves are formations at the edge of glaciers that are stronger than the interior ice sheet and are important for keeping it in place. Warm waters may melt ice at the base of the ice shelves, causing the ice shelves to become unstable. If the ice shelves collapse, there won’t be anything to keep the weaker ice in place, and the ice sheets will start to break apart, accelerating their decline. Another way ice sheets are breaking apart due to warmer temperatures is an increase in storms and cyclones that can help to break up the ice (Montaigne, 2012). Besides destabilizing the ice sheets, melting ice also increases the rate of shrinking by exposing ice sheets to warmer temperatures. As ice melts from the surface of an ice sheet, the surface itself is lowered. This exposes the ice sheets to the warmer air that resides at lower altitudes (Pearce, 2019). Ice sheets tend to be relatively light in color, which allows them to reflect sunlight away from Earth’s surface. The shrinking of the ice sheets means they cover less surface area, which is taken up by much darker-colored seawater. This results in Earth’s surface absorbing more sunlight, which increases Earth’s temperature. Warmer temperatures cause increased ice sheet melting, and ice sheet melting causes temperatures to increase due to the loss of reflective surface; therefore, ice sheet melting is a self-perpetuating feedback loop that contributes to climate change. The massive increase in the rate of ice loss occurring in the span of three decades indicates that this climate tipping point has already been reached, which means that the self-perpetuating feedback loop is already in progress.

Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two years and can remain frozen for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. It covers around a quarter of land in the northern hemisphere and consists of materials such as rocks, soil, and ice. What makes permafrost so important to climate change is that the cold conditions are ideal for storing carbon from organic material. “Fourteen hundred billion tons of carbon are thought to be frozen in the Arctic’s permafrost, which is twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere” (Cho, 2021). Just like ice sheets, permafrost can be melted by increases in temperature, and the arctic, where much of the world’s permafrost resides, is the fastest-warming part of the planet. In addition to outright melting permafrost, increased temperatures may also help strip away the layer of peat(partially decayed vegetation) that accumulates on top of permafrost and serves as insulation against thawing.

Climate change makes conditions more ideal for wildfires as warmer environments tend to be more combustible and have more lighting storms that can spark fires. Not only do wildfires strip away permafrost’s insulation, but they also release carbon from burnt plants into the atmosphere and leave the ground blackened, which absorbs more sunlight. Melting permafrost’s contribution to climate change comes in the form of released greenhouse gasses, mostly from microbial organisms breaking down organic matter, though some gasses such as methane are also stored in ice formations and are released when these formations melt. Permafrost contains an “active layer” a few feet deep that thaws during summer and supports plant life. As permafrost thaws, the active layer becomes deeper and more microbes break down organic material into greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane, which are released into the atmosphere (Cho, 2021). As the climate warms, the period of time where permafrost can support life extends, which means the microbes can produce greenhouse gasses for longer each year. Climate change causes permafrost melting by increasing temperatures and wildfires, and permafrost melting causes climate change by releasing stored greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere; therefore, permafrost melting is another self-perpetuating feedback loop that contributes to climate change.

The Ocean

The ocean covers over 70% of Earth’s surface and contains over 95% of its water. The ocean also contains many carbon-absorbing ecosystems and is the driving force of much of our planet’s weather, so it is crucial to consider how climate change affects the ocean and how the ocean affects climate change. One of the biggest climate change tipping points takes place in the ocean. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation(AMOC) is a system of moving water that transports heat across the entire ocean. Disrupting this system could result in major changes to weather and climate in many different parts of the world, causing massive ecological damage. The AMOC is so large that the flow of every river in the world combined is only 1-2% of the amount of water that flows through the AMOC (Norton, 2022), and it has already slowed down by 15% since the 1950s (Cho, 2021).

The force that drives the movement of the AMOC is the sinking of dense, salty water, and the weakening of the currents is caused by disruptions to this dense, salty water. Climate change directly disrupts this by warming the water, making it less dense, which in turn makes it sink less. However, most of the weakening is caused indirectly by climate change. Melting ice sheets, particularly the Arctic and Greenland sheets in the northern Atlantic Ocean, releases massive amounts of freshwater into the ocean that reduces the overall salinity of the seawater, making it less dense. Weakening the AMOC affects climate change because it harms plant life, reducing the amount of organic carbon absorption from the atmosphere (Norton, 2022). The AMOC is important to ocean life because it transports nutrients to the phytoplankton and algae that form the foundation of the aquatic ecosystem by making energy through photosynthesis, which also absorbs carbon. If the AMOC is disrupted, much of the ocean’s phytoplankton and algae won’t get the nutrients they need, and they will die. This means that the ocean will be able to support less life and store less carbon. Since the AMOC is also important to the weather and climate of many regions, disruption to the AMOC would mean that terrestrial ecosystems suffer as well. The biggest effect would be weakening the monsoons that much of Asia and West Africa depend on for water. There would also be less rainfall in the Amazon Rainforest, and the effects of this will be elaborated on in the terrestrial ecosystem section. The AMOC is disrupted by climate change because the increased temperatures make seawater less dense and melts ice sheets which also makes seawater less dense. Disruptions to the AMOC contribute to climate change by reducing the supply of necessities such as water and nutrients to aquatic and terrestrial plant life, which means that environments are able to sustain less life and therefore store less carbon. Additionally, this tipping point is likely active considering that there has already been a 15% weakening.

Weakening ocean currents isn’t the only way that climate change can negatively affect the ocean. Climate change also makes the ocean warmer. Warming the ocean has two main effects: it vaporizes water and harms many aquatic ecosystems. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. It accounts for around half of Earth’s greenhouse effect (Buis, 2022). Increasing temperatures cause more water to vaporize, allow air to hold more water vapor, and cause less water vapor to condense in the atmosphere. This means that higher temperatures increase the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, water vapor increases temperatures when more of it is in the atmosphere. In addition to putting more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, increased temperatures from climate change also reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses the ocean can store. Additionally, some organisms such as phytoplankton, an important consumer of carbon, grow better in cooler water. When the ocean warms, it makes conditions harder for phytoplankton to grow and thus reduces how much carbon can be stored in aquatic ecosystems. Thus, increased global temperatures vaporize more water and harm aquatic ecosystems. More vaporized water and less healthy ecosystems result in more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, which raises global temperatures.

Terrestrial Ecosystem Destruction

Terrestrial ecosystems are essential because plants use carbon to grow. They take carbon out of the atmosphere and turn it into plant matter. Land plants have absorbed about 25% of carbon dioxide that humans have put into the atmosphere (Riebeek 2011). Climate change harms these ecosystems in many ways, such as depriving them of water or increasing the number of storms and wildfires. Killing plants in any ecosystem may result in less carbon absorption and even release the carbon that was being stored in organic matter into the atmosphere. However, the Amazon Rainforest is the terrestrial ecosystem that scientists are most concerned about.

The Amazon Rainforest currently holds about 200 billion tons of carbon, five years worth of fossil fuel emissions (Cho, 2021). If the Amazon reaches its tipping point, it will begin to lose forestry until it becomes more like a savannah than a rainforest, a process that would release much of the stored carbon. Though there is some disagreement on what that tipping point is, it could be as low as 20% deforestation, which is about as much deforestation as has already occured (Cho, 2021). Most of this deforestation has occurred because of increasing exploitation by humans, but climate change has increased temperatures disproportionately high in the Amazon, which may lead to a drier environment. Rainforests require large amounts of rain to support their plant life, so a drier environment means less plant life, which also means less carbon absorption and storage. Deforestation is such a threat to the Amazon’s environment because the Amazon produces 50% of its own rainfall through a process called evapotranspiration (Berardelli, 2021). So if the Amazon has fewer trees, it has less rainfall, which means it can support less plant life. The drier environment also makes wildfires more likely, further destroying plant life. If the Amazon reaches its tipping point, its environment becomes drier and fewer plants can survive, which reduces carbon absorption and storage. When fewer plants survive, less rainfall is produced, and the environment becomes drier. The Amazon may have already reached its tipping point, and if it hasn’t it will likely reach it anyway as a result of climate change from other tipping points, such as the disruption of rain coming from the AMOC.


Several self-perpetuating feedback loops are beginning to contribute to climate change. Most of these show signs of already being in progress, and since they are self-perpetuating, they will continue to worsen climate change even without human contribution. Because of climate change tipping points in ice sheet and permafrost melting, ocean circulation and evaporation, and terrestrial ecosystems, Earth will continue to grow warmer even if humans completely stop contributing to climate change.



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Climate Change: Its Effects on Our Arctic Ecosystems

By Brendan McComb


The Arctic ecosystems are in severe danger due to the Earth’s rising temperatures today. We must protect these ecosystems for a multitude of reasons. Multiple species of animals are going to struggle with the rapidly increasing temperatures. This could be catastrophic for animals like the krill, which support nearly the entire arctic food chain. The rapidly melting ice will also affect other parts of the world. Melting ice will raise water levels, flooding low-lying cities, countries, and islands. Melting ice will also release hundreds of thousands of years of data preserved in permafrost. It will be impossible to recover this data if this happens. To stop the melting of polar ice and the destruction of the arctic ecosystem, we must work to minimize our carbon footprint.

 Climate Change: Its Effects on our Arctic Ecosystems.

Climate change affects the world in a multitude of ways. The rapid warming of our climate forces the adaptation of animals and plants. The potential harm that can come from the rapidly warming climate is massive. Many believe that climate change simply raises the globe’s average temperature, but in reality, many more effects come with it. Nasa states that the potential future impacts of climate change can range from more intense tropical storms to longer growing seasons. (Effects | Facts – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet ( There are so many possible effects of climate change that it is impossible to list them all.

Perhaps the most harmful change of all is to come to our ecosystems. Plants and animals have already started evolving with the rising temperatures and changing climates. These early examples are just insights into the potential problems our future ecosystems will face due to global climate change.

As climate change becomes more extreme, it is essential to note that some species of animals may not be able to adapt as quickly to a rapidly changing environment. Polar bears, for example, are already struggling to adapt to their rapidly changing environments. With sea ice melting and breaking off to sea, the polar bears face a difficult choice. Do they stay with the main landmass, where food is more scarce? Or do they go with the breaking sea ice, where food will be more plentiful, but the future of the ice mass they call home undetermined?

In the case of already endangered animals, such as polar bears, it is essential to push our resources to help defend these creatures from the inevitable warming of their ecosystem. We must try to help preserve the lives of these endangered species and help more species from becoming endangered. For these reasons, we should focus on safeguarding our arctic ecosystems from more harm.

Arctic Ecosystems

Arctic ecosystems are extreme environments. Harsh winds, freezing temperatures, and extended periods of either sunlight or darkness characterize them. The arctic covers much of Earth’s northern pole. The lack of traditional seasonal changes sets the arctic apart from other ecosystems (other than the freezing temperature and extended periods of sunlight).

The Earth’s tilt causes the arctic to not have traditional seasons, like summer or winter. Instead, the Arctic has days where the sun does not set. This has given the arctic the nickname “Land of the Midnight Sun.” (NFW) Although the lack of traditional summer and winter seasons, temperatures in the arctic fluctuate anywhere from negative forty degrees Fahrenheit and up to fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

The Arctic has two primary environments, the tundra and the ice caps. The tundra is a permafrost ground, while the ice caps are floating sea ice and glaciers. Many arctic mammals, such as polar bears, have adapted to these harsh environments. Polar bears have hair that traps air, providing insulation and black skin to attract as much sunlight as possible. These fundamental characteristics trap heat and make the predatory polar bear blend in with its snowy and icy surroundings, allowing it to catch its prey much more efficiently. (NFW)

These characteristics have developed over hundreds of generations of polar bears. With the rapid rising of Earth’s temperatures, we potentially could see many polar bears struggle to adapt. This could be catastrophic for the polar bear population for an already endangered species. On top of their bodies being forced to adapt, polar bears may also have to make a difficult decision.

Sea ice, where many polar bears live and hunt, is on the decline. Much of the world’s sea ice is melting. (Boyall, 2022) Polar bears are forced into a more confined environment due to the rapidly melting ice.

Polar bears are not the only arctic species threatened by global warming. Hundreds of species, such as the Krill, are the basis of the arctic food chain. Krill are the leading producers of nutrients in the frigid waters of the arctic. The loss of polar sea ice means the loss of the krill’s feeding environment. This will have a domino effect on the arctic food chain, effected animals such as penguins, orca whales, and of course, polar bears. Although many species don’t feed on the krill directly, they still are the leading producers of nutrients throughout the food chain. (Boyall, 2022)

To preserve the krill and the arctic food chain, we must stop the Earth’s global temperature from getting any hotter. The best way to do this as individuals is to reduce our carbon footprint. We can do this by carpooling to work, using more renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, using less water when we shower, and recycling as much as we can. These changes will not come immediately but will come in time instead.


The natural phenomenon known as the greenhouse effect has been in place for thousands of years. The greenhouse effect is described by Lonnie G. Thompson as “a natural, self-regulating process that is absolutely essential to sustain life on the planet. However, it is not immutable. Change the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the planet heats up or cools down.” The past hundred years have seen a rapid change to the greenhouse effect. Globally, carbon dioxide concentrations have varied around one-hundred-eighty and one-hundred-ninety parts per million. These numbers have jumped by thirty-eight percent since the start of the industrial revolution. (Thompson, 2010)

This information was found by looking at the carbon dioxide levels in permafrost ice deep underneath the surface layers. These ice cores hold valuable information about the world’s atmosphere at the time, such as carbon dioxide levels, methane levels, and other important variables, such as volcanic ash. If our temperatures continue to rise, there is potential for these layers of permafrost ice to be melted and lost.

These permafrost ice cores are acquired by drilling deep holes into the ice sheets around the world, and they contain thousands of years of data waiting to be found and analyzed. If global warming were to continue, we might lose this data, which could hold valuable information as to whether or not Earth’s greenhouse gases have ever been this dense. We would also lose any geological data, such as volcanic ash, that could be found, which can give us insights into volcanic eruptions of the past.

Between 1975 and 2005, carbon dioxide emissions have increased by seventy percent (Thompson, 2010). Thanks to the data found in permafrost, we know that these carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have never been reached in an eight-hundred-thousand-year span. This is alarming and can only be explained by one factor—human activity. Since the industrial revolution, our carbon dioxide emissions have been growing at alarming rates.

Human activity has been a leading producer of carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere. Despite seeming impossible to affect Earth’s climate on a scale as massive as it has been, human activity has still raised carbon dioxide levels by seventy percent. This rapid increase in greenhouse gases has made the greenhouse effect more severe, which will lead to increased temperature and the loss of arctic ecosystems and sea ice.

Many may say that it is not the fault of individuals but rather large corporations and factories that produce the bulk of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. This is not true. Today, billions of humans worldwide drive to work, emitting carbon dioxide. In 2007, human beings alone had exhausted eight billion metric tons of carbon into our atmosphere. (Thompson, 2010)

Effects of Melting Ice

The rising temperatures don’t just affect our arctic ecosystems. The melting of polar ice will have a devastating domino effect on coastal regions worldwide. The Greenland ice sheet melting alone can raise water levels by almost seven meters. (Thompson, 2010) To put this into perspective, that is roughly half the size of a telephone pole to put this into perspective. If eight percent of the Earth’s ice were to melt, cities like New Orleans would completely submerge. If sea levels were to continue rising, by 2030, nearly two thousand of Indonesia’s islands could be lost to the sea. If our culture of carbon emission were to continue, many aspects of individual cultures, like those of Indonesia and New Orleans, could be submerged and lost forever.

Indonesia and New Orleans aren’t the only places that would be affected by a rising sea level, the entire coastal region of all nations would be affected. We would lose the lower parts of the Florida peninsula, low-lying cities like London, New York, and many more would be in danger as well. These rising waters could lead to the loss of thousands of coastal miles. Our world map would be entirely different.

The rising waters effects have already been seen in countries like the Netherlands. The Netherlands is a low-lying country, meaning that the majority of their country’s land is very close to sea level. However minimal it may be at this time, the rising waters have already caused an increase in flooding throughout the country. (Thompson, 2010)

These floods are not only seen in the Netherlands. They are seen in low-lying countries all around the world. Countries like Bangladesh and islands like the Maldives are seeing floods due to the rising water levels.

Protecting our sea ice from melting will safeguard these countries and cities and preserve their unique and diverse cultures. These cultures are essential to the world’s diversity today. Despite things like the internet that allow us to maintain the history of these cultures, the potential for thousands of cultural sites and traditions to be washed away by water would be a tragedy.


Some may say that the world’s temperatures have always fluctuated, and this is true, but not to the extent that we are seeing today. Carbon dioxide levels have been at an all-time high in the past eight-hundred-thousand years, which is the leading contributor to the increasing temperatures worldwide. For those who believe these temperatures are natural, the current state of the greenhouse effect proves otherwise. The amount of carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere are at numbers that have never been seen before.

It is for these reasons we must preserve our arctic ice and ecosystems. If we abandon efforts now, we will lose species like the polar bear and lose many aspects of our culture, such as Indonesia and New Orleans. If temperatures were to continue to rise, we would also lose hundreds of years of permafrost data, which will help us take a look at past atmospheric events occurring on our Earth.

We may not prevent all of these disasters from happening by protecting our arctic ecosystems, but we will negate some of the damages. By preserving the arctic food chain, we will maintain the endangered animals for future generations to study and observe. Not only will these animals continue to live, but they will have more time to adapt to the ever-changing climate. Species like the krill are the basis of the arctic ecosystem. Losing them would mean losing the entire arctic food chain. We simply cannot let this happen.

Losing the polar ice will not only affect the animals, but it will also affect us. The melting ice will raise our water levels immensely, drowning cities such as New Orleans and countries such as Indonesia. The effects of this have already been seen around the world, and it is imperative that we protect our polar ice so this does not happen.

Not only will cities flood, but thousands of years of atmospheric data in the form of permafrost will be lost if we allow arctic ice to melt. We must find a way to protect this ice, as the domino effect of losing it would spiral the Earth into immense losses worldwide.

Protecting our arctic ecosystems and ice caps is the key to sustaining our current way of life. We must find a way to prevent or negate the damages caused by melting ice caps. For now, the best course of action is to work our hardest to reduce our carbon footprint.



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A Future Fueled by Sustainable Development: Efficient and Ecological Practices are Crucial to the mitigation of Climate Change

By Verda Korzeniewski


This paper explores the many reasons to consider sustainable urban development to combat the consequences of climate change and improve urban residents’ health. Eco-friendly procedures are essential to keeping our planet healthy and ensuring the future. Development plans should prioritize minimal energy usage and the integration of green space wherever possible. Public parks and community gardens are good examples of including nature in our cities rather than completely eradicating it from urban areas. These places also improve the mental and physical health of the residents near them by encouraging social interaction, providing a place for outdoor recreational activities, and giving people the opportunity to experience nature while living in an urban environment. Sustainable development also includes the utilization of nature to solve problems when possible.

Keywords: Sustainable Urban Development, Green Infrastructure, Eco-friendly, Nature-based solutions


A Future Fueled by Sustainable Development:
Efficient and Ecological Practices are Crucial to the mitigation of Climate Change

To seek a healthy relationship or lifestyle is to pursue a balance between what one wants and what one needs. The relationship between us and our planet also requires balance to be healthful. Sustainable urban planning is essentially a compromise between development and nature. It gives us what we need; homes, offices, restaurants, etcetera., while integrating an essential part of who we are as humans. With issues like climate change not far ahead, being proactive is vital. There is no future for a world where humans cannot coexist with nature.

Green Infrastructure

A vital component of sustainable development is “green infrastructure,” defined as reducing the impact of climate change by incorporating natural ecosystems into urban development. Combining our advancements with nature rather than fighting against the natural environment will be highly beneficial in the long run. Green infrastructure has many different benefits; it reduces flood risk caused by water runoff from agriculture and would help to advance efforts for clean energy using hydropower (Morabito, 2018). Upon enforcing this approach to infrastructure, our current situation with climate change could potentially change altogether.

Efficient and eco-friendly development, if implemented correctly, will reduce the effects of climate change. In the past, cities used a method known as grey infrastructure to carry stormwater away from houses, rainwater treatment plants, or local water bodies (US EPA, 2015). This type of infrastructure refers to gutters and pipes that age and break down. There are many alternatives for these which do not require large-scale manufacturing and would be a lot better for the environment. Some examples would be trees, rain barrels, or taking the concrete in an alley and allowing something to grow there to retain water. This type of green infrastructure is minimal and understated. Still, it proves that this type of approach has merit and could be one answer to our numerous possible conflicts concerning climate change.

Urban Greenery

Generally, as an area is becomes developed, it contains fewer trees and vegetation, which leads to more open space filled with concrete and city-related infrastructure. Transforming Earth’s land for urban use induces a most consequential and irreversible impact on the global biosphere. It causes loss of farmland, negatively impacts local climate, fragments habitats, and endangers biodiversity (Seto et al., 2011). These side effects of normal development cause urban areas to be much more powerless against issues caused by rising temperatures since concrete and metal lack the unique ability of nature to adapt to change. The U.S. forest service published an article that states, “Urban areas can be particularly vulnerable to climate change due to extensive impervious cover, increased pollution, greater human population densities, and a concentration of built structures that intensify impacts from urban heat, drought, and extreme weather. Urban residents are at risk from various climate stressors, which can cause both physical and mental harm.” (Janowiak et al., 2021). This research is evidence of the power our environment has on us and the lives of plants and animals. Advancement and the natural state of our world must reach a balance to maintain the health of Earth and its inhabitants.

Urban greenery like parks and gardens unite people socially and encourage interaction between those who live around them. It is natural for humans to live in tandem with nature, and with jobs that require long hours and so much happening inside of buildings, it is sometimes difficult to experience nature and what it has to offer. According to the climate change resource center, urban forests have many financial, social, and environmental advantages; In a community, trees aid by reducing air and water pollution, altering heating and cooling costs, and raising the price of real estate (Safford, 2013). Trees are an essential part of our lives, and if cutting them down to make space for things that will just contribute to climate change is continued, the future is bleak indeed.

Trees mainly play a big part in many campaigns to combat climate change since they have many benefits. One of them is that trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, which supposedly will reduce our carbon footprint. While trees help with this, simply planting trees is not nearly enough. To grow to a size where they can make a difference, those in charge must execute sufficient efforts. Saving the trees that already exist from being removed should be our priority, and the next should be reforestation and the maintenance of new trees.

Healthy Earth, Healthy People

Environment plays a big part in human health; people source all of their nutrition from things that receive nutrients from the Earth. If climate change continues to worsen and nothing happens to prevent the predicted disaster, our primary concern may be that the Earth can no longer sustain us. Many changes must occur to maintain a standard of living that includes nature, and we must be more aware of the issues that may arise as a result of waiting for climate change to fix itself. Design concentrated around people and sustainability has the potential to bring together communities and positively impact mental health. Case studies on three different pacific islands exhibit the positive effects of designs to render as little disruption of natural surroundings as possible. These studies stated how the well-being of humans is connected to the health of their surrounding ecosystems and proved how scientific information combined with nature-based solutions leads to long-term resolution (Kiddle et al., 2021). This information demonstrates how working with nature instead of against it has many benefits not received from traditional, non-sustainable practices. People are by nature a product of their environment; therefore, a city founded on sustainability and social wellbeing would produce people who care about their environment and are more connected with their peers.


Sustainable development has many different elements, one of which is minimal energy consumption. Those who work to develop cities should utilize sustainable policies to reduce the unnecessary use of energy wherever possible. If carried out to fulfillment, meeting this goal would, in turn, reduce the consequences of utilizing fossil fuels. With the threat of climate change on the horizon, those with the power to help must choose to allow climate change to take precedent. Without executing sustainable urban planning, climate change might have a much more severe impact on urban areas.

The issue of climate change is quite widespread, meaning no singular thing will be enough to combat it; many different things will have to take place for climate change to be under control. Evidence of climate change is everywhere, yet there is still not enough effort to correct this global problem. To acknowledge flaws in a procedure will only bring it closer to perfection. Climate change is an extensive issue that any singular all-encompassing thing will not solve; we must identify and rectify the many minor defects. Many of the problems we face today directly result from a lack of consideration for long-term effects while making decisions. Our responsibility is to ensure our successors do not have to spend their lives with an unnecessary burden.



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Ocean Acidification: Inevitable Destruction of Coral Reef

By Jessie Kiszelik


Anthropogenic ocean acidification impacts coral reef species by reducing their natural habitat and impairing olfactory discrimination and homing ability. It negatively impacts marine species such as corals, oysters, and other shell builders, which use seawater carbonate and calcium to make hard shells and skeletons. Ocean acidification is also harming societies and economies dependent on ocean fisheries. Ocean acidification will inevitably lead to the destruction of the diverse ecosystem present within the coral reef system and the many economies that depend on fish and shellfish worldwide.

Keywords: calcify, calcium carbonate, carbon dioxide, climate change, CO2, coral reef, environment, hydrogen-ion concentration, larva, ocean acidification, olfactory perception

Ocean Acidification: The Inevitable Destruction of Coral Reef

Systems and Dependent Economies

Climate change is only one consequence of carbon pollution from fossil fuels. Increased carbon in our atmosphere drives global temperature increases and is also behind the rapid acidification of our world’s oceans. It is now time to face reality about the state of the world’s coral reef ecosystem. A direct consequence of increased anthropogenic atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, ocean acidification, has already led to significant reductions in global reef systems. Ocean acidification impacts many marine species, including corals, oysters, and other shell builders, which use seawater carbonate and calcium to make hard shells and skeletons. It impacts coral reef species by reducing their natural habitat and impairing olfactory discrimination (the ability to detect differences between odors) and homing ability. Ocean acidification will harm societies and economies dependent on ocean fisheries. While global policy such as the Paris Agreement attempts collaboration on climate change initiatives, it is too late. Ocean acidification will inevitably lead to the destruction of the diverse ecosystem present within the coral reef system and the many economies that depend on fish and shellfish worldwide.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration levels in the atmosphere have been on the rise since the start of the Industrial Revolution 200 years ago due to changes in land use and the burning of fossil fuels. According to Lebling and Northrup (2020), the world’s oceans eventually absorb thirty percent of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. When CO2 levels rise, so do the corresponding levels of CO2 in the ocean. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) article entitled “Ocean Acidification” (n.d.) reveals that the increased level of CO2 over this period has resulted in a drop of 0.1 pH in ocean pH levels. This change doesn’t seem significant at first; however, the article claims this 0.1 pH decrease translates to a 30% increase in ocean water acidity because pH is a logarithmic scale (“Ocean Acidification,” n.d.). The effective range of the pH scale spans from 0 to 14, with a pH of 7 designated as neutral. An acidic solution will have a pH lower than 7, and anything higher is alkaline (or basic). “The pH scale is an inverse of hydrogen ion concentration, so more hydrogen ions translate to higher acidity and a lower pH,” explain the authors of “Ocean Acidification” (n.d., p. 1). Nature Education Knowledge Project series authors Stephen Barker and Andy Ridgwell (2012) further explain that when ocean waters absorb CO2, a sequence of chemical reactions occurs that increases concentrations of hydrogen ions. This chemical reaction causes the ocean water to decrease in pH level (become more acidic) while causing carbonate ions to be far less available.

Cohen and Holcomb (2009) explain that these carbonate ions form the building blocks of structures such as the exoskeletons of lobster, crabs, coral skeletons, and seashells. Corals use carbon ions from seawater and algae and then combine them with carbonate ions to form calcium carbonate. A NOAA webpage entitled “What is a Coral Reef Made of?” (n.d.) describes the role of stony corals as the corals primarily responsible for laying the foundations and building reef structures. Massive reef structures are formed when each stony coral organism secretes a calcium carbonate skeleton (“What is a,” n.d.). Any decrease in carbonate ions makes maintaining and building exoskeletons, shells, and other skeletons formed with calcium carbonate difficult for all these calcifying organisms. Ocean acidification also creates conditions that dissolve the minerals used by corals, oysters, shrimp, and other marine life to create their skeletons and shells.

Coral reefs provide local communities’ jobs and protect coastal areas from storms and erosion while offering recreational opportunities. They are also a source of food and new medicines. They provide an essential ecosystem for life underwater and provide millions of people with crucial income. Souter et al. (2020) document that coral reefs are present in over 100 countries and territories. The same authors, responsible for the “The Sixth Status of Corals of The World: 2020 Report,” continue by detailing that the reefs support over 25% of all marine species, even though they cover only 0.2% of the seafloor. It is clear that the reefs play a critical role in marine species’ survival. In the executive summary of this same report, the Honorable Penelope Wensley points out that predicted global warming of only 1.50C would result in a 70-90% decline in coral reefs (Souter et al., 2020). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) information Wensley references warns that global warming will continue until at least the middle of the century under all the emission scenarios studied. Souter et al. (2020) also point out that the IPCC predicts global warming benchmarks of 1.50C and 20C will be exceeded during this century unless drastic reductions in CO2 emissions are seen in the next ten to twenty years. Passing these benchmarks will destroy already vulnerable coral reef systems.

The behavior of noncalcifying marine organisms is also affected by changes in ocean chemistry. The survival of marine species depends on their larvae’ ability to find hospitable habitats. Researchers tested the ability of reef fish larvae to sense the olfactory cues emitted from their respective adult habitats under various elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Control seawater with a pH level of 8.15 was tested along with higher ocean acidity levels (lower pH levels) of 7.8 and 7.6 pH. Munday et al. (2009) found that in using clownfish, it was determined that larvae raised in pH levels of 8.15 could adequately detect the range of olfactory cues needed to help them find hospitable reef locations and habitats. They further found that under conditions of 7.8 pH, the larvae became unusually drawn to olfactory stimuli they normally avoided, and when acidity levels increased, and the pH levels were 7.6, the larvae could no longer respond to any olfactory cues (Munday et al., 2009). It is predicted that pH levels of 7.8 could occur by 2100 if the trajectory path of carbon dioxide emissions continues. As acidification continues, this sensory impairment will have profound negative consequences for marine species, and their population diminishes and sustainability wanes. When these species are put at risk, it places the entire food web at risk as well.

Many people mistakenly believe there are promising ideas that will help avert climate change, reduce carbon emissions, and reverse ocean acidification. They will say that the simplest and most efficient way to limit ocean acidification is to take action on climate change initiatives by implementing various proposed solutions to decrease the reliance on fossil fuels. They believe if CO2 emissions are cut and future global warming is limited, harm to marine ecosystems can be significantly reduced. One example is the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. According to a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) webpage entitled “The Paris Agreement” (n.d.), the Paris Agreement was adopted at Conference of the Parties 21 in Paris and entered into force in November 2016. The agreement aims to collectively keep global warming from rising above 2 degrees Celcius (with a preference at levels below 1.5 degrees Celcius) compared to pre-industrial era levels. Other examples include proposals that the ocean’s carbon removal potential could be a way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Lebling and Northrop (2020) theorize that biological methods could be employed, such as leveraging photosynthesis to capture more carbon by restoring coastal ecosystems that store carbon. Solutions suggested by Lebling and Northrop include ocean iron fertilization and large-scale seaweed cultivation, while proposed chemical solutions include adding carbonate minerals to the ocean and coastal areas (2020). Adding alkalinity could harness the ocean’s ability to store CO2 as dissolved solid minerals. Others continue to believe that climate change is a hoax, believe it is merely a natural cycle, or argue that scientists are simply overreacting and climate change is not as bad described.

The problem is that the time to take action on climate change and implement solutions to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels has long since passed. Leahy (2019) argues that most of the carbon emission reduction pledges in the Paris Agreement for 2030 aren’t nearly enough to prevent global warming of fewer than 2 degrees Celsius. Leahy claims that some of the largest carbon emitters worldwide will continue to have rising CO2 emissions, and some countries will never achieve their pledges (2019). Leahy (2019) further describes statements by Sir Robert Watson, a co-author of a report that dissects and analyzes the promises voluntarily made under the Paris Agreement and former chair of the IPCC. He indicates that countries would need to multiply their 2030 reduction commitments by two or three times to be aligned with the Paris Agreement target (Leahy, 2019). This information combined leads to the understanding that there will be a failure in reaching the targets set by the Paris Agreement. Stevens (2019) points out that the United States is the largest CO2 emissions producer per capita globally. One would think that would mean the U.S. should take a primary role in decreasing CO2 emissions, promoting climate change initiatives, and setting and reaching meaningful goals. However, in 2020, as Hersher (2020) reported, President Donald Trump formally removed the United States from participation and obligations in the Paris Agreement. The leading CO2 emissions producer per capita globally was now no longer at the table. Milman and Morris (2017) detail how Trump systematically decimated U.S. progress toward climate change by scrubbing climate science reports from U.S. government websites. All references to greenhouse gases, climate change, and even clean energy disappeared from websites such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, the Energy Department, and beyond. The U.S. succumbed to the control of a president who once described climate change as a hoax. American society became influenced by a lack of information and government censorship of the actual realities of global warming.

The COVID-19 pandemic gave a brief but informative look into a worldwide reduction in overall carbon emission. According to Laughner et al. (2021), in 2020, carbon dioxide emission reportedly decreased by 5.4%; however, the level of CO2 contained in the atmosphere increased continually at similar rates seen in preceding years. This shows that reduced emissions do not necessarily equate to reduced atmospheric CO2 levels, especially in the short term. Complete conversion to low-carbon-emitting processes is the only way to reduce atmospheric levels permanently.

Worldwide, over a billion people count on food from the ocean. As reported by NOAA Fisheries (2020) on their website entitled “Understanding Ocean Acidification,” about 20 percent of the global population acquires a minimum of one-fifth of their protein from fish. Jobs and economies both in the United States and worldwide rely on the ocean to provide fish and shellfish. Decreasing harvests could significantly hurt the poorest people in lesser developed nations with the fewest agricultural alternatives. Food sources and economic challenges such as these may result in the necessary migration to more urban areas, which could lead to conflict and even further social disruption.

Massive campaigns and policy agendas to stop climate change, global warming, ocean acidification and transform and restore ecosystems globally were needed years ago. It would have been an enormous undertaking then, undoing decades of developments in the industrial world. To suggest that could still happen today would mean that after decades of failure, the protection of our existing forests, wetlands, and marine ecosystems would suddenly be successful, and the elimination of CO2 emissions would have triumphed. Mathesius et al. (2015), authors of research that looked at the long term response of oceans to CO2 removal from the atmosphere, conclude that even if these changes could suddenly emerge and have an immediate effect, the instability and global warming trajectory already locked into the environment will continue to cause damage to existing ecosystems. It is too late for these discussions and agreements to reduce the global atmospheric carbon levels. The truth to be faced is that the path to ecosystem destruction has already been too far traveled. Disruptions to ecosystems because of ocean acidification and the destruction of the diverse ecosystem present within the coral reef system and the many economies that depend on fish and shellfish worldwide are now inevitable.


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Climate Change: The Secret Killer of Health

By Kayla Harjes


The purpose of this paper is to inform the audience of the negative consequences climate change has on the human body. It begins by giving an overview of the direct consequences that are given as a result of climate change. These consequences affect thousands of humans all over the world. The change we see in our environment is a serious issue we face. It is easy to ignore and walk away from, and not many think about the consequences it has for human health. There is a group of more vulnerable people, such as the elderly, children, and those in poverty that this affects directly.

Keywords: consequences, climate change, human body, health, vulnerability

Climate Change: The Secret Killer of Health

The impact of climate change has been significant enough to jeopardize human health in many different ways. These consequences give repercussions to humans all over the world. The direct ways it has an effect on human health involve heat, extreme weather events, and disease. Not everyone is at risk for these negative consequences. The most vulnerable population compromises children, the elderly, and people with existing health conditions. Important factors include age, resources, and geographic location.

One direct consequence to the human body includes heat-related consequences. Increased temperatures of the planet force heat-related injuries to humans. These injuries include heat strokes, heat exhaustion, and even death. According to Brown (Associated Press, July 2021), “The impacts in the U.S. are also devastating: About 35 percent of the U.S.’s heat-related deaths could be attributed to the climate change that has already occurred. Other research has clearly shown that those costs are not borne equally: in many cities, older people of color are twice as likely to die during extreme heat events than older white people.” Rising temperatures of our planet place an effect on human health. As they continue to rise, we will continue to see the threat of heat-related injuries. Especially to the more vulnerable population.

A second direct consequence to human health covers extreme weather events. Floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes are just a few examples of extreme weather. These events do not only cause extreme damage to housing and property but play a part in health as well. It causes interruptions to power, water supplies, safety, and interruption to all emergency services. There is the possibility of drowning, injury by debris, fire or electrocution, and infection linked to water shortages or contamination. Climate change is expected the worsen the intensity and impacts of some types of extreme weather events. For example, sea-level rise increases the impacts of coastal storms and warming can place more stress on water supplies during droughts. These extreme weather events threaten not only health but life as well.

Lastly, we have the direct threat of illness. The temperature increases on our planet places a bigger threat on many different diseases. An example of a life-threatening disease is malaria. A Stanford biologist named Erin Modecai explains this on a deeper level. “Mordecai’s research has found that warmer temperatures increase transmission of the vector-borne disease up to an optimum temperature or “turn-over point,” above which transmission slows. Just as they carry different diseases, different mosquitoes are adapted to a range of temperatures. For example, malaria is most likely to spread at 25 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit) while the risk of zika is highest at 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit).” Modecai explains just one of the many diseases that are linked to climate change, and what effect it has on human health.



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