Measuring Climate Change in Ecosystems Around the World


Humans share a common trait: We have always had a goal of development and growth for our societies. The intention to grow and expand has manifested in our populations, our economies, the physical space we take up, and the investments we make. In other words, to enable this growth and to support energy for our growing world, we have invested our personal energies in technologies like mining, fracking, deforestation, factory farming, and so many others that have resulted in the deep-rooted and devastating problem of climate change today, which will rampage the entire earth if we do not stop it.

To think about this relationship, we can think about this equation: The Need for Development = Resulting Human Behavior: Exploitation of Earthly Resources and Ecosystems = Causes the Drastic Effects of Climate Change

In general, my goal of this presentation was to explore this relationship and specifically how it manifests in local ecosystems around the world. Then, in conclusion I want to engage you to think about how we can rework this equation and ensure a more sustainable and frankly, livable future.

First, take a few moments to look over this Climate Change in your Community survey that will ask you what you know about climate change and how it manifests in your community. This survey asks the following questions:

  • What do you know about climate change?
  • Do you see manifestations of climate change in your day-to-day life?
  • What sort of climate change effects do you see (if any)?
  • How do you feel when you think about climate change and tackling climate change?
    • Ex) I am afraid because it feels like an unsolvable issue

Climate change feels overwhelming and daunting, as we often think of it as monolithic and insurmountable; we feel as if we cannot make a difference. I think as young people, especially, when we are faced with the realities of our future with climate change, it seems like something that is impossible to tackle. However, by looking at how climate change manifests in different areas of the world, we are able to break it down into simple cause and effect, and suddenly, each of those causes seems less daunting. This map shows eight places around the world where climate change has most affected the environment, ranging from the melting of sea ice in the Arctic to coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. As you review the map, think about your answers to the survey, how do these effects mirror things you’ve learned or seen before? How are these places similar to (or different from) your own community?

This map focuses on these eight regions of the world:

Because the map is meant to highlight key elements of climate change in those areas of the world, when put together, it is able to provide a diverse narrative of the different effects of climate change around the world.

The other part of this story is about human impact: How have the actions of humans impacted the development of climate change and encouraged these effects? Though this may seem like a simple question, there are many different ways that human behavior has impacted these ecosystems, as evidenced in these eight example regions.

Now take a look at this Human Behavior and Climate Change survey to think about how human practices have affected climate change in your community and how your own behavior plays a role. The survey asks:

  • How do you think humans affect climate change?
  • What sorts of practices (behaviors) are most influential on causing the effects like those described in the map?
  • In your own community, how do you think human behavior has allowed for climate change to continue and grow?
  • What impact do you think your own behaviors and practices have on climate change?

After you reflect on the questions, check out the images below that provide some examples for the types of negative human practices that cause and influence climate change.

Pump jacks at the Belridge Oil Field and hydraulic fracking site which is the fourth largest oil field in California. Kern County, San Joaquin Valley, California. (Photo by: Citizens of the Planet/Education Images via Getty Images)
Deforestation in The Amazon in South America has increased extremely due to a higher demand for food — this has amounted to 17% of the forest being deforested in the past 50 years. (Photo by: Nimbus-eco Images)

These large-scale and institutionalized negative human practices are the leading causes of climate change, which is evident in sea level rise, temperature warming, and CO2 emission increases.

In thinking about how climate change manifests in different areas of the world, we can better understand its causes by breaking them down into smaller parts. A major obstacle in activating people against climate change is the fact that we are not able to visualize climate change as an issue that affects actual ecosystems and communities. We want to avoid thinking about it because it is scary and ominous and feels far away. If we can’t see it, we rationalize, it must not be dangerous. However if we want actual progress against climate change, we need to accept climate change for what it is and realize that it is going to (and is already) drastically changing and devastating our world. So look around. Acknowledge where you see climate change. Maybe you do not see it at all, so think about how your privilege might protect you from climate change’s effects. Ask yourself why that stand of trees in the park is dying, or why that pier is rapidly eroding into the sea. What happened to the songbirds? Why is the sky brown some days? Why are asthma rates rising? Do you know where the plastic goes in your recycling bin? Are you sure it doesn’t end up at sea as part of the trash island in the Pacific? What is the rainfall this year? Have you experienced floods or drought? Do you know where the energy that keeps your home warm or cool is generated? Have you counted the butterflies in your backyard this year? Keep breaking it down, because if we tackle the large-scale issue of climate change using small-scale understandings, it seems a lot more tangible.

Below are several sources to explore to learn about more places drastically affected by climate change and more examples of human practices and their affects on climate change as a whole.

What would you add to this map? Fill out these questions in the following What would you Add? survey or answer in the comments:

  • Based on what you know about climate change and its impact on various ecosystems, what do you think should be added to this map?
  • What takeaways do you have about your own community and its relation to climate change? Would you add those to the map?
  • How can understanding climate change on a small scale help spark more systemic change?
  • What are your final takeaways about how climate change should be thought about or how it manifests?

Once you have answered these questions, I will add your knowledge about climate change and its impact on your own community to the map so we can generate a larger narrative of climate change in our world today!

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  1. April 26, 2019 by bryent.takayama

    Hey Celia! I think you strike an essential point here about the current discourse regarding climate change; you stated it perfectly by saying that “climate change feels overwhelming and daunting, as we often think of it as monolithic and insurmountable.” I also find it intriguing how you argue that the human behaviors that contribute to climate change are quite complicated and embedded in our economy. Could you perhaps elaborate on why, therefore, you believe that we must blame the government and corporations rather than ourselves? It seems as though a bit of self-criticism could be beneficial in changing our daily habits to promote sustainability.

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