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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – May 10, 2002: Effects of Global Warming - 2002-05-09

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

Scientists say the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere has begun to affect plant and animal life around the world. Scientists from the University of Hanover in Germany reported their findings in the publication Nature. They say global warming is affecting endangered species, sea life and the change in seasonal activities of organisms. Global warming is caused by carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Studies show that the Earth’s climate has warmed by about six-tenths of one degree Celsius during the past one-hundred years. Most of the increase has taken place in the last thirty years.

The German scientists studied different animal and plant populations around the world in the past thirty years. They say some species will disappear because they can not move to new areas when their home climate gets too warm.

The scientists say one of the biggest signs of climate change has been the worldwide reduction in coral reefs. Rising temperatures in the world’s warm ocean waters have caused coral to lose color and die.

In the coldest areas of the world, winter freezing periods are now happening later and ending earlier. Researchers say these changes are having severe effects on animals such as penguins, seals and polar bears.

Changes in temperature and wetness in the air can also affect the reproduction of some reptiles and amphibians. For example, the sex of baby painted turtles is linked to the average temperature in July. Scientists say even small temperature increases can threaten the production of male turtles.

In Europe, scientists say warmer temperatures are affecting the spring and autumn seasons. This is affecting the growth of plants and delaying the flight of birds from one place to another.

Scientists are concerned about invasions of warm weather species into traditionally colder areas. Rising temperatures have been linked with diseases spread by mosquito insects in areas of Asia, East Africa and Latin America.

Britain’s Meteorological Office says worldwide temperatures will continue to rise during the next one-hundred years. It says how much temperatures increase will depend on the success of worldwide policies designed to slow global warming.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.