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Climate change a myth? Not for these places!

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Americans are largely oblivious to the effects of climate change because they are lucky. Geography and prosperity do an excellent job of blunting the worst effects. However, there are other regions where climate change is being keenly felt. Here is a list of five regions where climate change is unmistakable.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online)  - Climate is a dynamic thing. Even without anthropogenic climate change, there would still be some degree of change on the planet. Continents shift, mountains rise and fall, glaciers form and melt. However, these processes take hundreds of thousands to millions of years.

On shorter timescales, often of a few decades, anthropogenic climate change can be witnessed at the fringes of the most delicate ecosystems. Places where the difference between verdant green and desert sand, are but a fraction of a degree apart, our dynamic-and fragile climate can be easily demonstrated.

The United States is relatively resistant. The lower 48 are in the temperate zone where weather patterns remain fairly stable. The large size of the nation, its relative prosperity, and technological sophistication make the country so resistant to climate change many mainstream Americans still doubt that it's happening and that humans are behind it. However, in other parts of the world, the doubt is much less and the impacts are quite real.

The Mother Nature Network recently compiled a list of five places where climate change is readily evident. Here's the list:

5. The Great Barrier Reef has warmed by a third of a degree Fahrenheit over the past 25 years. This seems like a miniscule change, but to the fragile ecosystem of the reef, it's devastating. At least half of this amazing reef has been lost in that time. Losing half of a feature so large that it's visible from space is a significant loss.

The warmer ocean upsets the very delicate balance of coral reef and the organisms that live on it. Warmer water causes corals to expel the animals and organisms that live amongst their craggy branches, and the corals turn white. Much of that coral dies because the organisms it requires to survive have been expelled.

Both the coral itself and the fish and creatures that inhabit it are dying off in astounding numbers. Despite millions of years of building and evolution, the sudden shift by a fraction of a degree is changing the ecosystem so fast that natural selection cannot keep up with the change.

4. Newtok, Alaska along with several other villages in Alaska is built upon the permafrost. However, warming oceans are causing permafrost to melt, and the local Ninglick river is rising. Villagers fear that rising waters from the river and sinking soil could result in losing their village within a decade or less. It doesn't help the town already sits below sea level.

Rather than wait to be displaced by floods, residents plan to move to higher ground, some 9 miles away. U.S. government officials estimate the cost of moving the village will run about $130 million.

3. Mumbai, India is known for its tropical weather. Situated along India's west coast, the major city is also at ever greater risk for floods. Economists at the World Bank have concluded that Mumbai is one of the most at-risk cities from global warming, and possibly the largest. Rising sea levels threaten to devastate the city. For now, the current defenses against flooding seem to be effective, but in decades to come, as sea levels rise, those defenses will become inadequate.

2. The Alps have been warming since the late 19th century. Having already risen an average of two degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. This is causing glaciers and snow to melt sooner and faster, and the region is susceptible to disruptions to water supplies. Several countries rely on Alpine rain, snow, and glaciers to provide water for cities and towns. Disruptions could prove costly, even catastrophic in places. Americans may be unconcerned, but for millions who live in the shadows of the Alps, the matter is a serious one.

1. Gansu Province in China is already a dry region, perhaps one of the driest on the planet. Drought already plague the region from time to time. Just like in the Alps, warming temperatures are disrupting water cycles and melting glaciers. Gansu relies on mountain meltwater for water, and changes in the water cycle are contributing to a slow drying of the region.

According to Mother Nature Network, Chinese officials have learned that a staggering 28,000 of the country's rivers have dried out. Thousands more are on the verge. China now has just 28 percent of the water resources per person than the world average, which is a serious check on that country's ambition to become a world leader in other areas.

As China grows and its water supplies shrink, the country, which has spewed emissions without concern, may soon change its ways.

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