Biodiversity refers to the myriad living organisms — flora and fauna — and ecosystems that exist on our planet Earth. These systems behave like an intricate web, well connected while also dependent on each other to seamlessly carry out their individual and collective functions. The variations in their designated areas and their co-dependence work together to maintain and support life.
Ecosystems, as observed historically, have always been able to adapt to the changing environmental and climatic conditions. We are now in a period of Earth’s history called the Holocene that started around 11,700 years ago and carries on to this day. The climate has been considered relatively “stable” during this period, and the current ecosystems have grown severely dependent on this “stable” climate.
Therefore, with human intervention and the accelerated exploitation of natural resources, it has become difficult for nature to keep up with this anthropogenic environment, leading to a possible collapse. Over the years, hundreds of plant and animal species have become extinct, and about 20% of the entirety of life forms are set to be extinct in the next 25 years, predominantly due to the exploitative activities of humans on Earth.
Climate change is a natural process that relentlessly takes effect over centuries to millennia. However, due to anthropogenic (human) influences that have taken a significant toll on the natural environment, this lengthy process has been rapidly gathering pace and occurring over the course of decades. This sudden change in climate has started to prove catastrophic for many ecosystems around the globe, disrupting their structure and function.
Our oceans are severely affected due to climate change. Climate change has a long-standing impact on our biodiversity, and in some cases, it is way past the tipping point. The effects of global warming and pollution merge with the oceans’ tendency to absorb energy at a much higher rate than land-based organisms leading to rapid acidification of the oceans. This leads to ocean dead zones, where vast areas along coastlines have become completely devoid of sustaining any life. Additionally, these dead zones directly impact the ocean food chain, where due to constant disruption, several species have already passed the tipping point, and their extinction appears imminent.
However, the problem does not stop there! Ocean water expands as a result of global warming as it absorbs more and more heat and energy trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. This process is what is known as an accelerated form of the greenhouse effect (CO2 and methane gases emitted by the industrial sector along with Earth’s natural gas composition). This causes sea level rises which raises the risk of flooding and, in some cases, entire submersion of island states, resulting in the extinction of thousands of island species each year.
Global treaties such as the Paris agreement have emphasized time and time again the importance of reducing emission targets to compensate for the damage that we are causing to the environment. One of the main objectives of the Paris Agreement involves mitigation of global temperature increase over 2°C than the pre-industrial levels. However, we have been failing to meet their recent targets. Therefore, unless there is a serious effort towards the mitigation and adaptation of our current development strategies to be more sustainable, there is quite little to hope.
We must be cautious of our actions and keep in mind that we are setting an example for our children. Future generations will require a thoughtful approach to the environment, as well as an understanding that humanity and the environment must coexist. Then, and only then, will biodiversity be boosted and climate change be reduced.
Individual decisions can add up to significantly impact the environment, biodiversity, and climate change. On this World Environment Day, as the global fraternity calls on us to remember that there’s Only One Earth, let’s pledge that our lifestyle choices are smart, sustainable, and thoughtful.
Supriya Patil is an environmental expert with a Master’s in Environmental Science. She forged her journey with Grow-Trees.com with an indisputable passion to work towards simplifying the notion of man-animal cohabitation.
This article is a guest column reflecting the author’s opinions and does not necessarily represent the official views of The Weather Channel.