Gruesome Virus attacks Sea Turtles in Florida

by Pushan Hinduja

Climate change and pollution around the world are causing marine mammals to see an increase in illness and disease. More specifically, Lorraine Chow, discusses a rising number of sea turtles affected by fibropapillomatosis (FP), a disease similar to herpes, in the waters around Florida. Chow believes that the possible culprits for the observed rise in affected turtles are increased pollution and the warming of the waters. Between 2012 and 2014, the Turtle Hospital rescue and rehab facility based in the Florida-Keys has seen an increase in the number of turtles admitted, from 56 to almost 100. FP is a virus that primarily causes tumors to grow on the exterior of a turtle’s body. In some cases, however, FP can cause tumors so large that they prevent a turtle from being able to swim, see, or avoid predators. The hospital tries its best to find turtles and cut off the tumor growths with a carbon dioxide laser, however the process and sheer volume they are dealing with doesn’t make it easy. Although the survival rate after the surgery is almost 90 percent, some surgeries can take almost “half a year,” given the huge number of tumors some turtles can have; additionally, because many turtles are already sick, only one in five actually gets to return to the wild after the surgical procedure. Continue reading

Will There Be No More Snows of Kilimanjaro?

by Pushan Hinduja

Mount Kilimanjaro is located 300 kilometers south of the equator in Tanzania, and reaches an altitude of almost 20,000 feet. More than half a century ago, Hemingway vividly depicted the beauty and “whiteness” of its glimmering ice sheets in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. Today, however, evidence indicates that the famed ice sheets of Kilimanjaro might disappear by 2020. Soon after these scientific reports were released, scientists around the world attributed the decline to global warming, and looked to the ice fields that Hemingway had depicted as a reinforcement to the imminent danger of climate change. Continue reading

Are Major U.S. Cities Doomed by Rising Sea Levels?

by Pushan Hinduja

As climate change becomes more and more of a threat, people around the world worry about the fate of US coastal cities that might one day be entirely submerged. Matthew E. Kahn, a visiting professor of economics and spatial science at the University of Southern California argues that these cities shouldn’t worry, as they will adapt and rise above the effects of climate change. Khan begins by citing a Rolling Stone article published in 2013 that predicted Miami, “the nation’s urban fantasy land” turning into an “American Atlantis.” Interestingly enough, this threat is not unique to Miami: the majority of Americans live within 50 miles of an ocean, whether that be in New York, Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, among many more. An economist by training, Khan argues that based on his understanding of how people invest their money during times of crisis and uncertainty, US coastal cities will successfully adapt to climate change and thus be “just fine.”

To be more specific, coastal city residents and firms are currently all aware that the dangers of rising sea levels are imminent. As a result, there is a huge market incentive for adaptation and the development of innovative solutions to these problems. Additionally, thanks to the “invisible hand,” homeowners will feel the pressure to take self-interest and protect their properties as best as they can to try to maintain value. Khan compares this to the increase in research in the pharmaceutical industry when there is expected demand for a certain drug.

In terms of actual adaptation to the rising sea levels, cities around the US will employ a variety of different tactics, ranging from the upgrading of existing structures to construction of new climate change-resilient structures using modular materials. Khan argues that the rising demand for these new developments will recruit young and new talent into the field, which will lower overhead costs for adaptation, ultimately making the whole system even more sustainable. Another key component of adaptation to climate change is the ability to move to “higher ground.” Khan argues that loss of land due to rising sea levels will not reduce the population in an urban area, because of the ability to retreat and develop on lower risk high ground.

Coastal cities as America’s economic hubs won’t be affected either, as the “physical place” is not what defines an economic hub; instead it is the human capital that clusters in any specific location that makes that place an economic hub. Thus rising sea levels may cause the economic hubs to change locations, perhaps only slightly, but will not negatively harm the U.S. economy.

Ultimately, Khan argues that although rising sea levels due to climate change will play an important role in defining coastal cities in the future, it will not render them underwater wastelands. In fact, US coastal cities will undergo a renaissance of “market-driven adaptation” that will cause both the economy and the population that currently resides in these ‘high threat’ areas to thrive.

Kahn, Matthew E., 2016. Rising Sea Levels Won’t Doom U.S. Coastal Cities. Harvard Business Review.

https://hbr.org/2016/01/rising-sea-levels-wont-doom-u-s-coastal-cities

 

How a Crucial Tropical Forest is Responding to Climate Change

by Pushan Hinduja

How are Mangrove forests throughout tropical areas of the world responding to the rising sea levels attributed to climate change? Daniel M. Alongi, of the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, analyzed historic responses to changes in sea levels in Mangrove forests as well as current data to determine how well these forests are reacting to the climate crisis (Alongi 2015). Mangrove forests tend to occupy the border between land and sea in low latitudes, making them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. Fortunately for mangroves, they have an outstanding ecological stability, in part due to their large subterranean storage capabilities. However, despite responses to develop resilience to environmental disturbances, mangrove forests are still suffering. In terms of human impact, mangrove forests are being deforested at a rate of 1-2% per year, leaving only about a century before these forests disappear entirely. Mangroves are crucial to the environment; they serve as breeding and nursery grounds for fish, birds and other animals, prevent erosion and damage from natural disasters like tsunamis, serve as a renewable source of wood for fuel, and are key components in filtering ocean contaminants. Continue reading