With huge amounts of carbon dioxide being pumped into the air each year, the world's temperatures are rising, the glaciers are melting and natural disasters like flooding or hurricanes occur more frequently. There are several places that have already become the first victims of global climate change and are in danger of literally vanishing from our globe.
Chacaltaya Glacier. Bolivia.
''Chacaltaya has disappeared. It no longer exists", said Edson Ramirez, head of a team of international scientists that have studied the glacier since 1991. The 18,000-year-old Bolivian glacier is the most poignant example of the threat climate change poses. To date, the glacier has been famed for the world's highest ski resort. Today, it may serve as a warning sign. Chacaltaya began melting away in the mid-1980s and its disappearance was predicted by 2015. However, it melted six years earlier than expected, as the rate of thaw increased threefold in the last decade.
Other Andean glaciers may also disappear this century due to the global warming. This will have a serious impact on people living in such countries as Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The water supply in these regions is dependent on glacial seasonal discharge. In turn, in lowland areas flooding and mudslides will be occurring more frequently.
Greenland Ice Sheet. Greenland.
This huge piece of ice is covering 1.71 million sq km, roughly 80% of the surface of Greenland.
In recent years the ice sheet has retreated by 15 kilometers (nine miles) due to the climate change. According to the scientists a potential sea level rise from this ice sheet could total to around 0.35m (14 inches) over the 21st century. At the moment Greenland is losing around 130 cubic kilometers (31 cubic miles) of ice per year.
Bangladesh, the seventh most populous country, inhabited by around 150 million people, is widely recognized as one of the nations most vulnerable to climate change. The Ganges and the Brahmaputra, Asia's largest rivers, flow into the Bay of Bengal, where the country is situated. Increased rainfall and sea level are are enormous threats to people living near the banks of the rivers.
Around million people a year are displaced due to the loss of areas along the rivers.
One meter increase in sea level (that is already predicted) will inundate around 15% of the country, creating more than 25 million climate refugees.
Melting of glaciers in the Himalayas means increases in flooding, erosion, mudslides and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF). Among most affected countries can be Nepal, Pakistan and north India. Snow melting coincides with wet seasons in these countries, resulting in the intensification of monsoons. By the 2050s, rising temperatures may cause disappearance of many Himalayan glaciers that feed seven main rivers in Asia. As a result, one billion people could face water shortage, and droughts can lead to serious land degradation.
Kiribati, an island nation composed of 32 atolls located in the central tropical Pacific Ocean, is in danger of becoming the first drowning victim of the increasing sea level. The ocean around the islands have been rising around five millimetres a year since 1991, and at present, even a marginal rise can be disastrous for this country, inhabited by 100,000 people. The signs of climate change are already affecting Kiribati - these are higher tides, less rainfall, coastal flooding, bleaching of coral reefs and diminishing of freshwater supplies.
The president of the republic, Anote Tong, has already started looking for some land in other countries in order to relocate the communities that live in the areas that can be soon submerged by water. The president has also proposed to send the Kiribati's residents off to such countries as Australia or New Zealand now, so they could start a new live there.
Some of Kiribati's flat islands are less than two meters above sea level, and much of the country is no higher than five.
Kiribati's bigger sisters, Maldives,are also threatened by the effect of global warming. The chain of around 1,200 islands, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, is one of the most amazing destinations for scuba divers, surfers, and holidaymakers. This paradise on Earth, however, is also one of the lowest places on our globe, so the rising sea level can threaten the existence of the country that is only 1.5 meters above sea level on average. According to various estimates, the acceleration in ice flow might cause sea level rises of about 0.8 to 2 meters by 2100 and that would submerge the island nation of Maldives completely.
Taking into consideration the fact that 11 of the world's 15 biggest cities sit on the sides of the estuaries and coasts, and around 70% of the world's population lives on coastal plains,
it is not only the island nations that should worry about rising sea levels. Over the 20th century they increased between 10 and 20 centimetres (4-8 inches), and further rises will have a dramatic effect on beaches, freshwater, fisheries, coral reefs and atolls.
Great Barrier Reef. Australia.
The iconic magnet for divers and the symbol of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is also in danger due to the climate change. More than a third of carbon dioxide produced by people since the industrial revolution has been absorbed by the oceans. As a result, the Australian reef, renowned for its biodiversity, can be devastated by mass coral bleaching that is already taking place worldwide. Apparently, the "situation" of the Great Barrier Reef is not as bad as the condition of reefs in the regions of the Maldives, Seychelles or Palau. Still, around 5% of this huge marine ecosystem was damaged in each of the 1998 and 2002 coral bleaching events.
Some scientists predict the Great Barrier Reef is to collapse within two decades due to the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the water. At present the CO2 level is at 387 parts per million (CO2 hit the concentration forecasted for between 2030 and 2060) and reefs were safe at 350ppm. When the level of carbon dioxide reaches between 480 and 500 parts per million, the world's reefs will be gone as it will be impossible for the corals to grow.
Unfortunately, the list above is far from complete. There are dozens of other locations that are threatened by global warming, from Alpine peaks, other small island nations such as Tuvalu or Vanuatu, to Amazon jungle. Still, many scientists argue over the consequences of the climate change, some stating that global change has been a natural process throughout the Earth's history and the environmental problems are rather exaggerated.
And what do you think? Is global warming a serious threat to our globe, or is the whole issue a bit exaggerated?