About Morgen Henderson

Morgen Henderson is a freelance writer from the mountains of Utah. She is currently studying digital marketing and business management. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, baking, and binge-watching documentaries.

Why We Need to Take Climate Change Seriously

Climate change involves and impacts every system within the planet, from ecosystems to fresh water distribution. It’s infinitely complex. But while many causes are still unknown, we do know that the earth’s temperature is rising and that human activity is contributing to the temperature spike noted since with the Industrial Revolution.

While common climate change culprits include increased use of fossil fuels and rising levels of CO2, other causes are lesser known. For example, methane gas from biodegradable waste is a major greenhouse gas. Scientists now say biodegradable waste in dumpsites is contributing more methane to the atmosphere than they thought. Identifying contributors like this helps us make smart choices when it comes to things like waste management.

With that in mind, here are some other causes and implications of climate change that make it something we should take seriously.

Overpopulation is a Bigger Cause Than You Think

It’s been found that human overpopulation and climate change are scientifically linked. As the influential political economist Robert Malthus noted, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” In other words, it’s much easier to make new humans than it is to support them. The increase in population brings more demand for natural resources, more land dedicated to farming, more deforestation, and elevated carbon emissions. Population growth and climate change are a perfect feedback loop.

But the implications of maintaining this system are disastrous for the planet and human civilizations. The demand for natural resources to support 7.5 billion people already exceeds what the planet can provide. Experts estimate that humans currently use the equivalent of 1.7 earths worth of resources. That means it takes 18 months for the planet to regenerate 12 months worth of resources. This situation is untenable.

And the challenges to population control are staggering. Most industrialized nations like the U.S. balk at the idea of implementing population controls. But allowing numbers to grow will only meet an inevitable confrontation with fewer resources. Without addressing overpopulation, climate change will continue. And with it, we will see an increase in migration, war, displacement, crime, poverty, disease, and shorter life expectancy.

Climate Warming is Changing Our Oceans

Oceans are big regulators of the planet’s temperature. They absorb and trap heat from the atmosphere — acting like a giant sponge that protects the planet from overheating. The oceans’ layers heat at different rates, with the top layer being the warmest. But over the last 50 years, climate change has increased the temperature of our oceans by 0.3°F. And the ocean’s top layer is now warming at a rate of .2°F per decade.

But what happens when our oceans get too warm? Well, quite a bit. For one, warming oceans increase the rate of melting glaciers and ice sheets. The runoff contributes to rising sea levels, which is already making the consistent flooding of coastal cities and towns a new normal for residents. Less habitable coastal land will bring massive property losses and increased migration by displaced people.

Warming oceans also threaten critical ecosystems like coral reefs, which provide habitats for millions of the world’s aquatic life. The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is already seeing massive “bleaching” effects from warming oceans. And experts predict coral reefs may become all but extinct by 2050 if current trends continue.

Another climate change threat to our planet’s oceans is from increased “acidification” — the rise in acidity from dissolved carbon dioxide. Like heat, oceans also absorb CO2 from our atmosphere and produce half of the oxygen we breathe. Since the Industrial Revolution, increased CO2 emissions have raised the levels of ocean acidification by 30%. Higher acid levels affect calcified shellfish like clams, oysters, and corals by eating away at their protective layers. Any threat to these aquatic species could destroy the entire ecosystem — a system that supplies 15% of the protein intake for 4.3 billion people.

Climate Change is Affecting Your Health

Climate change brings an increase in the severity and frequency of climate events. More flooding, stronger hurricanes, longer heat waves, and rising pollution are a few consequences of a warming planet. These heightened weather phenomena also raise the risks to public health in the following ways:

Less freshwater supplies

A warmer climate means melting glaciers. The roughly 150,000 glaciers around the world store about three-quarters of our freshwater supply. As more glaciers near the earth’s poles retreat, their abundance of fresh water runs into the oceans, becoming undrinkable salt water.

Less freshwater will lead to contaminated water supplies and waterborne diseases like cholera and dysentery (already responsible for 3.4 million deaths each year). Rising sea levels will cause sewage backups and water contamination for coastal cities, exacerbating the situation.

A rise in disease-carrying insects

While warming climates will devastate some species like polar bears, it will be a boon for others like mosquitoes, ticks, and crop pests. Stagnant water and growing populations of insects will spread more mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria and the Zika virus. And more insects means hardier diseases that mutate to become resistant to treatment.

More drowning deaths

Larger and more frequent flooding events will lead to higher losses of life via drowning. Floods are the leading cause of death among all weather-related disasters that happen in the U.S. Drowning while driving is a big problem, specifically for flash floods. People desperate to make it home or to safety too often take the chance to cross flooded areas in their cars. But it only takes 18 inches of water to lift a vehicle, roll it over, and trap the victims inside. Flash floods will be a hallmark of climate change, as sudden and violent downpours will inundate populated areas near river valleys and coastlines.

There are many things you can do to help combat and adapt to climate change. Take part in recycling campaigns, use public transportation, turn off your electronics when you’re not using them, and eat less meat. But one of the most effective things you can do is share what you know. Find reputable information and spread the word to your family, friends, and anyone who will listen.

How Artificial Intelligence is Saving Our Planet

It takes a high level of data analysis to predict the effects of climate change and the implications of our actions to stop and adapt to it. Often, scientists have terabytes of data, but not the computing power to make sense of climate issues like hurricanes. But this level of analysis is possible with artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, AI may be the best weapon we have to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change. That’s because it can analyze large chunks of data from past events and make accurate predictions about future ones.

Today, AI is helping to monitor and predict everything from glacier retreat to commercial waste management. As innovations in “deep learning” march on, AI’s prescience will help inform scientists about climate impacts and policymakers on the most prudent steps for adaptation. Here are some critical ways AI is helping to preserve our planet.

Smarter Home Energy Use

AI is helping save the planet by assisting homeowners through energy-efficient smart homes. The Internet of Things and today’s “smart devices” let homeowners control their energy use and lower their monthly bills. Smart thermostats can adjust temperature settings for specific rooms in a house. Smart water sprinklers can change water usage based on weather forecasts. And smart security systems can cut down on false alarms calls — so fewer gas-guzzling trips by first responders. The automation, connection, and prediction power built into these smart devices allow homeowners to lower their carbon footprint.

But smart energy use is not just about conservation — it’s also about the best time to use energy. Peak energy hours like evenings are higher-demand, higher-cost times. Smart devices can automate energy use for low-demand hours. Plus, off-peak times like mid-day are when alternative energy sources like solar and wind contribute the most. Therefore, smart technology promotes renewable energy.

Soil Conservation

Soil degradation is a problem often overlooked in the media. But it has serious consequences for humanity’s ability to adapt to and survive climate change. It takes a millennium to generate only three centimeters of topsoil, and soil degradation is happening at a much faster rate. Chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and global warming are major contributors to soil degradation. And if the current rate of degradation continues, the planet’s farmable land could disappear within 60 years, according to United Nations officials.

But farmers and scientists are using AI to help conserve the soil by marshaling complex algorithms along with robots and drones to detect erosion and monitor soil health. For example, one company has developed an agricultural app to help farmers identify nutrient deficiencies within their soil. And farmers are using machine learning to predict the best times to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops based on weather changes. Accurate predictions mean less need for pesticides and fertilizers, which degrade the soil.

Exploring and Protecting Oceans

Scientists watch and test the health of oceans because they’re the best indicators of Earth’s health. Microplastics, increased CO2 levels, and ocean acidification are changing the surface of the planet. The key to protecting oceans is exploring and monitoring them for changes. Climate scientists and oceanographers are using AI technology to drive autonomous marine vehicles to the deepest depths. And some companies are developing autonomous garbage collection systems that would help remove plastics and floating debris.

Another emerging technology — blockchain — is helping to track fishing and identify illegal behavior. Blockchain is the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The technology acts as a transparent ledger for transactions. Blockchain is a decentralized system, which means it operates autonomously and isn’t subject to misuse and abuse. Trust is critical to international treaties that regulate fishing quotas and manage overfishing. Blockchain technology can record each fish (e.g., tuna) with a scannable code uploaded to the ledger. Therefore, retailers, customers, and regulators can confirm that fish are legally caught.

Air Pollution Detection

AI is becoming an invaluable tool for tracking our air quality and identifying sources of pollution. During accidental emissions, city air quality officials need to identify and respond quickly. Some European cities are using leak sensors and AI to help create emission maps, predict mortality rates, and estimate financial costs of emergency responses. These data points give decision makers a more accurate view of the air pollution along with more targeted remediation.

In addition to monitoring air pollution, AI is also cutting tailpipe emissions. AI manages self-driving cars to make getting from point A-to-B more efficient. Self-driving automobiles can cut oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% to 4% annually. AI and global positioning systems operating driverless tractor-trailer rigs will make deliveries non-stop, faster, and less costly to the planet. Complex algorithms, sensors, and traffic lights are directing traffic flow in some cities. These systems are currently reducing travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling time by 40%.

Evaluating the Efficacy of Action

AI is bringing powerful ways to monitor and predict threats to our environment. Synthetic thinking adds value for scientists, officials, and policymakers by giving them deeper looks into current environmental situations. Perhaps, more than anything, AI’s biggest potential lies in figuring out where solutions hit the mark and where they miss. It’s counterproductive to invest resources and time into bad solutions. But that’s highly likely, given the complexity of climate change and adaptation.

Where do we invest? Which coastline needs saving the most? What communities are at a higher risk? With dwindling resources and bigger dangers, we will face some hard decisions in the future about where to deploy our efforts. At some point, those decisions will mean life or death. We will need quick thinking and accurate data. Evaluating our options and predicting their implications is where AI will bring the most value.