CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT WE MUST KNOW

CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT WE MUST KNOW

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Climate Change is the increase of earth’s average surface temperature due to effects of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. It is mainly the cause of changes in rainfall patterns which result in drought and fires in some areas and flooding in other areas, it contributes to more frequent storms and greater storm damage. Climate change is caused mainly by human activities but we know little about it.

The primary cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, which emits greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation, transportation and heating and also the manufacturing of cement, all result in the total worldwide emissions of about 22 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year. About a third of this comes from electricity generation and the other third from transportation and a third from all other sources.

Other human activity such as deforestation, that is the excessive cutting down of trees without replacement, also increases the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This is because human beings produce carbon dioxide which trees make use of  and produce oxygen in return. If trees are excessively cut down, however, there will be fewer trees to make use of the carbon dioxide. Therefore there will be excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

According to the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, while some quantity of these gases are naturally occurring and a critical part of earth’s temperature control system, the atmospheric concentration did not rise above 300 parts per million between the advent of human civilisation roughly 10,000 years ago and 1900 but today, it’s about 400 parts per million, a level not reached in more than 400,000 years.

The effects of climate change are rising sea levels due to the melting of the polar ice caps contributes to a greater storm damage. Warming ocean temperatures are also associated with stronger and more frequent storms. Additional rainfall, particularly during severe weather events, leads to flooding and other damage. Increase in the incidence and severity of wildfires threatens habitats, homes and lives. Heat waves contribute to human deaths and other consequences.

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EXPERT VIEWS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Michael Mann, professor of meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University says, “The growth in releases of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, has doubled in the last decade, compared to the rate before 2000. China saw the biggest increase, but these gases fell in the United States and Europe. Total greenhouse-gas pollution was 54% higher in 2010 compared to 1990. Average annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production contained 8.3 billion tons of carbon per year between 2002 and 2011.”

In the view of the American Meteorological Society, "It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide."

Mohammed Shayaw–Deen was a participant in the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference, New York. According to him, “Climate change is the aggregate change on the world scale of the atmospheric conditions and the indicators of the global weather. It includes rainfall and temperature so when there is a change in these, then we say there is a climate change. Particularly, climate change took a heavy toll on the world immediately after the industrial revolution when we saw the replacement of human labour by machines and the manufacturing industry becoming more pervasive and vibrant, setting up of industries that produces waste and the emitting of pollutants into the atmosphere, the expansion of the military industrial complex and the production of weapons of mass destruction. This translates into increasing global temperatures which has rippling effects on the world over such as famine in Sudan, Somalia etc, floods, rainstorm and tidal waves.”

In answer to whether or not the June 3rd floods could be traced to climate change, he said, “There isn’t a necessary link between the two, in that if we had put in appropriate measures, I’m sure that particular occurrence would have been adequately contained. According to the BBC, over a million trees are cut down every minute in the world over. Trees act as a stabiliser of global temperatures, regulates the oxygen carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. For me, climate change is a reality and we have to tackle it from that perspective”.
 

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE SO FAR AND WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE?

Early in 2015 was the UN Climate Change Conference in France where countries like the USA, France, Germany, China committed themselves and pledged to cutting down carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto protocol in the 1960s, which sought to cut down carbon dioxide emissions by a given percentage. All these are commitments but such international efforts are not enough and more needs to be done while we are moving towards an age of greater industrialisation. Majority of the load falls on us; to stop dumping refuse anyhow, stop cutting trees indiscriminately without planting more and desilting our gutters. The industrial powers should also cut down on their carbon dioxide and sulphur emissions into the atmosphere.

Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.

By:Musah M. Minawaratu (L300)

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