Is climate change killing our planet or helping it? How do you know?

1 Answer
Dec 26, 2015

Global warming, or climate change , has a broad range of effects on the planet.


Climate change is going to affect many ecosystems and not all will be affected in the same way. For example, some areas are experiencing an increase in precipitation whereas others are experiencing a drought.

Furthermore, within one ecosystem, a change may be beneficial to one species while creating challenges for another. For example, increasing temperatures along the Arctic have meant that polar bears have to swim further to find food as there's less ice. This is certainly a challenge. However, this increase in temperature has lead to grizzly bears expanding their range and being able to inhabit and hunt in areas that were once not ideal (see here).

Thus, we have the same change affecting two species in two different ways. Climate change "helping" one species and "harming" another.

Yet, using these terms is somewhat problematic because throughout the history of earth, species have gone extinct and new ones have arisen. We're currently in the middle of a sixth mass extinction event caused by humans, thus obviously many species will go extinct. On the other hand, when species go extinct, it usually means other species adapt and arise to fill these gaps (check out this recent study, which would obviously be beneficial if one is a member of that new species).

In terms of the planet, climate change is certainly going to mean the end for some species but new ones will likely arise (if not a considerable amount of time later). Thus, the planet as an entity does not really benefit nor is it being killed. It is simply changing. It is changing very rapidly and because of humans, and I think most would argue that these changes are undesirable. Yet, we anthropomorphize the planet when we discuss of helping or killing it.