Three classes of toxins and their role in climate change, “…induced by anthropogenic [effects of human activities] warming of the earth’s atmosphere…” where the focus of an environmental study by the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program of Duke University, Durham, NC, USA. The broad categories of the toxins listed in the Duke study article are air pollution, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and pesticides.
The article, published April 16, 2009, on the ScienceDirect website is titled, “The Toxicology of Climate Change: Environmental Contaminants in a Warming World.” The review (abstract) article, and study outline, is available for reading free of charge. The full study can be purchased from a link on the ScienceDirect article page. The Duke article addresses the major toxic issues related to the environment, wildlife, and human health due to climate change.
All of the contributing authors of the study are associated with the Duke University Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program. Some of the contributing authors are additionally associated with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Triangle Park. NC. USA. The authors are:
- Pamela D. Noyesa.
- Matthew K. McElweea.
- Hilary D. Millera.
- Bryan W. Clark.
- Lindsey A. Van Tiema.
- Kia C. Walcotta.
- Kyle N. Erwina.
- Edward D. Levina.
Study Lists Environmental Problems
Information for the Duke study came from reviewing scientific research articles, reviews, and government reports. The article theme is “…the interactions of toxicants with…temperature, precipitation, and salinity, as altered by climate change.”
Plastics are the greatest source of ocean debris worldwide. While everyone who uses plastic likely contributes to the problem, they can, with a few very low-cost changes, become a solution.
Sources of Ocean Pollution
According to the organization Plastic Debris Rivers to Sea, land-based sources of marine debris include all of the usual suspects: litter (especially bags and single-use disposables), garbage transport and landfills, construction debris, and commercial sources (think Yankee Stadium after a ball game or manufacturing waste).
Even people who live in America’s heartland can contribute to the problem, since much of the plastic pollution travels through storm sewers to waterways that end in the ocean. In the words of Charles Moore, “the ocean is downhill from everywhere.”
The Extent of Plastic Pollution in the Oceans
The extent of the marine plastics problem was discovered by ocean scientist and crusader Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Foundation on a voyage across the Pacific in 1997. He traversed an area known as the doldrums – usually avoided by sailors. He soon found himself sailing through a “plastic soup” of floating garbage concentrated by slowly circling currents. It’s now known as the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch.
His research published in 1999 stunned scientists and the ocean-going public. He showed that plastic fragments, which do not degrade chemically but only break into smaller and smaller bits, were six times more plentiful by weight than zooplankton, tiny organisms at the base of the food chain. His later research found that plastic outweighs plankton by a factor of more than 2 in waters off the coast of Southern California.
Overall, water on Earth is cheap on a per liter basis, but increasing population pressures have made fresh water a declining resource. Water is essential to life as we know it, and unfortunately, in those societies where water is short, much human suffering can result.
The Earth’s climate is part of a coupled system including the atmosphere, the oceans and the frozen icecaps. The lower atmosphere contains a large amount of water, which is close to its saturated vapor pressure in many places. The oceans and ice caps are in contact with the atmosphere and play a major role in regulating the climate.
Frozen Water and Climate
Water freezes in a variety of ways. On the surface, frozen water is often in the form of glaciers while precipitation in high latitudes produces low density snow which over decades becomes compacted into ice.
Fresh snow and glaciers are highly reflective. Heat from the sun is reflected back into space, cooling the surface. With overall climate warming, more ice and snow are melted. Less heat is then reflected back into space, warming the climate even more. Snow melt from land, such as Antarctica and the Greenland ice shelf release additional water into the sea, raising sea levels.
Liquid Water and Climate
The Earth is 70% covered with oceans. As the atmospheric temperature rises, heat is transferred to the deep ocean over decades. This leads to thermal expansion of the ocean and increasing sea levels.
In the long term, the heat exchange with the atmosphere can be accommodated by the deep ocean, but eventually, the ocean surface warms. Because of its contact with the atmosphere, warming oceans have climate impacts such as increased hurricane frequency.
Deep sea temperatures in Baffin Bay are being measured by narwhals (Monodon monoceros) in an effort to learn more about the effects of climate change on Arctic waters. And the whales themselves are being studied as the satellite transmitters track their movements. Because narwhals remain in the high Arctic year round, they have been able to provide the first winter sea temperatures for the region. Diving to nearly a mile deep in an area that is of concern for scientists studying global warming, the data they provide will aid in understanding the severity of ocean temperature increases in critical Arctic habitat. Knowledge of narwhal natural history will help protect the species as well.
The narwhal is seen as a semi-mythological creature linked to unicorn fables because of their tusks. But hard data on these whales is actually very scarce. Their habitat is difficult to work in for most of the year and the whales are very wary of humans, having been hunted by Inuits for centuries. Populations of narwhal are estimated at somewhere between 10,000 and 45,000, but the IUCN lists this species as Data Deficient. Much like some of the dolphins, there is just not enough known about them to make a clear determination of their status. This study from the University of Washington will shed light on both the narwhal and its critical habitat in the waters between Greenland and Canada.
The currents that pass through Baffin Bay bring warmer waters north, tempering the severity of weather in northern Europe. Tracking changes here will provide better predictors of what is really happening to those currents. What is known is that the sea ice in the area was expanding until recently. Now it is shrinking very quickly. It is unclear whether this is linked to long term climate change.
Although involved in conservation efforts for over a century, hunters and anglers have recently become more dedicated to protecting habitats affected by climate change. A recent report, “Seasons’ End: Global Warming’s Threat to Hunting and Fishing” released on April 10, 2008, by the Wildlife Management Institute and eight other hunting and fishing organizations, focuses on the impact of climate change on fish and wildlife.
The new study emphasizes the expected impact on fish and wildlife species, and the future of hunting and fishing. The report’s purpose is to help boost understanding about climate change, the long-range effects and direct and indirect impacts on wildlife habitats. The hunting and fishing organizations aim to educate on climate change impact and generate strategies to face the challenge.
Hunters and Anglers For Conservation
As sportsmen have been amongst the majority of conservationists in North America, providing resources for wildlife habitats and wetland conservation, directing attention to the potential climate change impacts is only second nature. Hunters and anglers pay billions of dollars in license fees and taxes, in order to participate in hunting and fishing activities annually, according to Ducks Unlimited. These citizens are now planning how to face the challenges of climate change, in order to continue their traditions of hunting and fishing.
Ducks Unlimited Report on Waterfowl Habitat Impacts
Ducks Unlimited, which began in 1937, is the “world’s largest and most effective private waterfowl and wetland conservation organization.” Ducks Unlimited has over 700,000 members and 1 million supporters, the majority in the United States and Canada. The organization’s mission is simple: Habitat Conservation.
Presently, people around the world are on the edge of their seats watching the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. There are many people being blamed and there is no consensus about who is liable. Worse yet, no one can figure out how to stop the oil spill or how to clean it up. What is society’s role in this unfolding event? How does society contribute to environmental disasters? How bad is water pollution really? Can society take ownership in stopping future water pollution from taking place? If society can, why haven’t they done so already? This article will attempt to answer these questions.
What are the Causes and Facts?
Land activities (“Water Pollution Facts – In Numbers and Stats,” scipeeps.com/May 8,2009) are considered 80% of the problem when it comes to water pollution. Society can’t blame beachgoers and water activities for the majority of water pollution. Water pollution is caused by everyone in their daily activities and routines.
It has been discovered that discarding plastic and other similar types of litter accounts for the annual deaths of 100,000 marine animals like porpoises and sea otters and at least a million sea birds like pelicans and gulls (“Water Pollution Facts,”). When people throw away plastic containers, they often end up in water sources like oceans in a variety of different ways. When marine animals hunt for food, they get caught in these discarded plastics or swallow them, almost always dying a slow, grueling death. The food sources for these marine animals may have also consumed small plastic items, which are then ingested by the predators.
Community Power Works is a Seattle neighborhood-based building retrofit program that will achieve deep energy savings and create green jobs.