Global warming is happening, and there is no dearth of evidence to prove that. We are left with two options: either turn a blind eye towards the evidence, or acknowledge it and put in efforts to reduce the impact of this disaster. As for the evidence, the most crucial is perhaps the fact that the average near-surface temperature of the planet has increased by 1.8 °C over the last century.
While those who have turned a blind eye towards this phenomenon are least bothered, those who know the seriousness of this environmental issue are left wondering as to what will happen if it continues unabated? In order to get an answer to that question, we need to take into consideration the various effects of this phenomenon on the Earth.
What is Going to Happen if Global Warming Continues Unabated?
If the near-surface temperature continues to soar, it will melt the water stored in the form of huge glaciers in the polar regions and mountains. Melting of glaciers will affect the humans as well as animal species on the planet. A significant amount of freshwater is stored in these glaciers and if they melt, all the water will be drained into the oceans, leaving us devoid of water to drink. Animals will be affected as large-scale melting of glaciers will result in loss of habitat for several species. In fact, the Polar bears and Arctic foxes are already facing the threat of habitat loss due to excessive melting of ice in their natural habitat.
It will also trigger extinction of plants and animals, as these species will not be able to sustain the climate change triggered by global warming. In fact, a look at the number of animals extinct in the last 100 years just adds to the grave concerns about the ability of various species to adapt to the rapid change in climate. One of the most prominent examples of animal extinction due to rising temperature is that of the Monte Verde toad, endemic to the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica.
If the water stored in these glaciers drains into the oceans, it will add to the volume of water in the ocean basins and result in abnormal rise in sea level. Melting ice may be the major contributor to the rise in sea level, but factors such as thermal expansion (i.e., expansion of water by heating) of the upper layer of oceans will also add to this problem. Rising sea level will submerge the low lying coastal areas, as increasing water in various oceans of the world will encroach upon the land and flood them.
A large number of countries will be affected by this phenomenon, including low lying countries, such as Bangladesh, and tiny islands, such as Maldives. A significant percentage of the world population lives in big cities in the coastal areas, such as New York and Mumbai. If ocean water encroaches upon land, these cities won't be spared either. In other words, this will result in habitat loss for humans. More importantly, the economy of these countries, as well as the whole world, will face a major setback if these cities go underwater. In fact, the sinking of Maldives has already begun.
Yet another bad news for humans would be the spread of tropical diseases. If the rise in temperature of the planet continues, the difference between the climate in polar areas and tropical areas will be diminished. As the whole planet will experience a tropical climate, malaria and other such diseases, which are restricted to the tropical areas, will spread out to the subtropical and polar areas. Warm climate will also help the disease-spreading insects, such as mosquitoes, to flourish in these regions.
Not to forget, the planet will also be subjected to extreme weather conditions as a result of incessant warming. The climate pattern will undergo a drastic change, and untimely rains and droughts will become more frequent. Similarly, the frequency of hurricanes will increase, as the rise in temperature will heat the ocean water, thus providing a nourishing environment for these natural disasters. The rise in the number of hurricanes over the last decade comes as an apt evidence of the same. At the end of the day, the species that will be the worst affected will be humans. We may be the most intelligent species on the planet, but we are also the most dependent of the lot.
It's worth noting that these are just some assumptions as to what may happen if ... In reality, the effects of global warming on the Earth may be less severe than this―as we will adapt to the climate change―or much worse than this. The fact that we are dependent on the nature makes us the most vulnerable to this phenomenon and thus, the onus is on us to put in some efforts to save our planet.