Climate change, a sizzling topic being debated and discussed hotly world over. You key in just “Clim” on Google and you get Climate Change as the first suggestion. This clearly tells the way world’s going gaga over this topic. In India, Supreme Court has made it mandatory for the undergraduates to study Environmental sciences so that they understand the value of keeping environment healthy. What is climate change actually and why is it that an important phenomenon?
Wikipedia defines Climate change as “a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average (e.g., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change may be limited to a specific region or may occur across the whole Earth”.
If you were born before late 1980’s you would have certainly noticed a change in weather pattern. I stay almost 3000Km away from my home in hot, tropical conditions though I belong to a place where it used to snow every winter. It’s natural for me to miss winters and the snow covered hills and trees. I had a chance to be at home in mid April, it was raining and I was remembering my childhood when I would wake up one fine December night to see the earth clad in white. I was imagining snow flakes falling from heaven, behold I was actually seeing them fall. Was I dreaming with my open eyes, It never snows in mid-April? And came my mummy with a surprised face and a smile on it, “it’s snowing out there.” My dog was overwhelmed catching the flakes mid-air. Poor little creature, my dog, had never seen snow since it was born three years back. We all complained of the snow never blessing us for past few years and now it snowed but when? In mid-April? Nobody could have ever imagined that. Yes, this is the part of climate change. Weather conditions and the weather pattern changes totally.
Now, the next question is, Why call Climate change bad? If it snows in April and not in December lets start teaching kids that its winter in April and it snows then. But snow in April is not the main problem. The problem is unpredictability. Nobody can predict if it will snow again in April next year. And yes, the next year April was hot. Apart from unpredictable weather it’s the duration for which the climatic conditions prevail. Our crops require a certain period of exposure to a particular type of light-dark combination along with some temperature and various degrees of humid conditions. If these conditions are not met then we have crop failures. I am from fisheries so I can tell you that if a fish egg does not get a particular incubation temperature then the eggs may not hatch or they may hatch to give birth to spawns with congenital defects making them incompetent in the race of survival of fittest. A fish may not even release its eggs if day-light period is not matching the environmental conditions resulting in decline in its population and poor fish catch for human consumption and disturbed ecological balance. This is why it is bad, as with the rising human population we cannot afford to be unpredictable about our food supplies.
Am I scaring you like the way Hollywood movies based on this topic scare you? That’s not my intention. All I need to tell you is that these can be some of the problems associated with climate change and the example that I gave you above about snowing is specially to break the idea that many people keep that climate change means rise in temperature. Climate change is not just rise in temperature, it’s the way the climate behaviour changes and Global Warming is just a part of Climate change.
Who’s fit and who survives.
Nature, if is gentle then it has a ruthless face too. Every organism faces a competition for its survival and the one who wins the fight gets the chance to perpetuate its species. Nature, keeps throwing challenges and is constantly sieving out the populations present on earth and keeps on eliminating the losers. Now, there is the topic I do my research on; adaptability to the change in environmental conditions. You must have heard of the famous phrase, Survival of the fittest. This phrase literally means that the one who is fit to survive the conditions will survive and the rest will perish. We know about this just because nature had been doing this since the Earth was formed. Our ancestors have observed this happening over the ages. Now, how do we win this battle in the perspective of Climate change. Nature has provided us all with some mechanisms to overcome small changes that occur in the environment and owing to these mechanisms we acclimatise to our surroundings and the phenomenon of keeping our body system under stable conditions despite changes externally is called ‘homeostasis’. You must definitely be knowing why we shiver in cold and why sweat comes out when its hot. These are mechanisms that are visible but what about the small and subtle changes that occur within our body? I would not like to go much technical here but just this introduction would suffice that there is a cascade of events interrelated to each other within our cells that help to keep our cellular enzymes and other proteins functional even when environmental changes tries to rip them off their natural conformation rendering them useless. Also, cellular changes make our body immune to certain changes by modifying cellular processes in such a way that the cells that are most vital receive constant energy and oxygen while other cells and tissues starve and wait till the conditions get normal. The organism that can perform these changes better and can survive the environmental stressors for long survive while the rest are eliminated. And the reward of surviving is a chance to perpetuate its species.
(This is the first part of the story of survival. Next part will be published which will have more details on the mechanisms of survival)