- Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2016 23:11
Earth is the “Goldilocks” planet. It’s neither too hot nor too cold. As a result, our world is the only place we know where water can take the form of a gas, a liquid or a solid (ice). Is this changing?
2015 was planet earth’s hottest year on record. The global average temperature in 2015 was 1.57 degrees higher than the average from 1951 to 1980. It is predicted that 2016 will be even hotter.
Melting ice threat
About 20,000 years ago, huge sheets of ice many kilometres thick covered parts of Europe, Asia, and North and South America. Since then, the ice has gradually melted and the ice sheets have retreated. Today, the only ice sheets on earth’s landmasses are found in Antarctica and Greenland, while some ice occurs as glaciers in mountainous regions and as floating ice floes in the Arctic Ocean and around Antarctica.
Satellite data reveal that the world seems to be growing warmer causing parts of the major ice sheets to melt more rapidly. Satellite images also show that unusually large areas of sea ice are melting during the Arctic summers.
Our changing environment
The melting of floating ice causes important environmental changes. For example, ice sheets act like a mirror, reflecting sunlight and cooling the earth. As the ice disappears, the earth is likely to become warmer and major climate changes could occur. According to Prof. Bruce Hewitson of the University of Cape Town (UCT), the last eight years were the warmest in the last 100 years, and the last century was the warmest in the last 1200 years.
If the warming gets worse, as scientists expect it will, some plants and animals, including the wildlife living in the polar regions, may become extinct because they can’t move to new (cold) homes; the sea level may rise by several metres, causing people to move away from the coasts; there may also be more storms and floods, while some areas may become too dry for farming.
Make a difference
While international global warming agreements are being negotiated, including the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, deforestation etc., you can be part of the solution by taking a few simple steps:
- Wait until you have a full load of clothes to wash before using the washing machine, and wash clothes in cold water
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room and use energy efficient globes
- Turn off your computer or the TV when you’re not using it. Unplug chargers when not in use; standby uses energy
- Dress lightly or use a fan in summer instead of turning up the air conditioning, and dress warmly in winter instead of turning up the heat
- Plant a tree
- Take shorter showers; heating water uses energy
- Recycle household waste
- Use less chemicals in the garden and around the house
- Don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth or washing the dishes
- Switch off your geyser each day and/or turn the temperature of your geyser down
- Make use of public transport and bicycles.
(Revised by M van Deventer)