One of the main factors contributing to climate change is human activity. Increased demands on natural resources have coincided with widespread increases in the standard of living for many of the world's populations. Increases in average global temperature and the frequency of extreme weather events are changing ecosystems worldwide and endangering entire species of plants and animals, and the Earth is having a hard time keeping up. The North and South Poles' glaciers are receding; there is less rainfall and more wildfires; and forests are drying up. We are all impacted by the effects of climate change, but in order to respond and adapt, we must first comprehend it.
If not quickly handled on a worldwide scale, an unstable climate system is detrimental to both nature and human health and will destroy our planet permanently.
Understanding Climate Change.
The word "climate change" refers to the gradual change in Earth's average temperature and typical worldwide climate conditions. The position of the Earth and the amount of solar energy it gets cause its climate to change constantly, yet the globe has been gradually warming relative to pre-industrial levels.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that if human activity does not significantly slow down, the chance of excessive heat, flooding, and droughts that will affect hundreds of millions of people globally by the year 2030 will significantly increase.
Weather, Climate, and Natural Disasters:
Although they are not the same thing, climate and weather have many similarities. Climate establishes the long-term characteristics of a specific location, such as whether it is temperate or tropical, while weather refers to short-term conditions that can change swiftly. Importantly, weather and climate are related; the former is subordinate to the latter. Climate affects temperatures, the variety of weather, the characteristics of winters, rainfall totals, and the nature of meteorological phenomena, including storm severities. As a result of climate change, we are experiencing an increase in temperature as well as more frequent weather extremes and natural disasters because of this delicate interaction.
Planet Earth as a Greenhouse:
The earth receives solar radiation, of which two thirds are absorbed by the surface of the planet. The remainder is reflected back into the atmosphere, which is where greenhouse gases function. The planet remains habitable as a result of them reflecting the energy back to earth, where it is once again converted to heat. The term "greenhouse effect" refers to this phenomenon. Naturally, when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases rises, this impact gets stronger and an increase in world temperature results. "Global warming" refers to an excessive temperature increase brought on by human activity.
How Does Climate Change Happen?
The primary driver of climate change on Earth is greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes like deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. The majority of these emissions are toxic byproducts like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing temperatures worldwide and contributing to climate change.
The environment on Earth is polluted by these same harmful substances, which can degrade water quality by seeping into the ground or cause air quality problems by eating away at the ozone layer. Even if some of these components come from organic processes, human activity has been the driving force behind an increase in the quantity and intensity of greenhouse gas emissions.
Fossil Fuel Burning:
Since natural processes removed as many greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as were released, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has changed only minimally over millions of years. Fossil fuel extraction and burning on a huge scale, which resulted in the release of previously unheard-of CO2 levels into the atmosphere, caused issues. Since the Industrial Revolution, the concentration of CO2 has approximately doubled.
Deforestation, excessive use of chemical fertilisers, industrial animal production, burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, industry, and transportation, and chemical fertiliser usage all contribute to a rise in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global warming. Future temperatures and the overall trajectory of climate change are intimately correlated with the quantity of greenhouse gases that humans put into the atmosphere.
A Vicous Cycle:
The amount of greenhouse gases that escape through soil melting (permafrost) or, for instance, from drying peat bogs is becoming more and more significant in addition to these so-called anthropogenic emissions (emissions caused by human activity). Even though we do not directly emit these, our continued contribution to global warming makes us indirectly liable for them. The Earth's surface is simultaneously made darker and warmer as a result of the melting of frozen or snow-covered surfaces, which reflect part of the sun's rays.
Who are the world’s biggest polluters?
More than 90% of the emissions that had accumulated in the atmosphere by the end of the 20th century were emitted by Europe and the United States, which are mostly to blame for the environment's current state. However, in recent decades, the rest of the globe has started to catch up. This is especially true for China, which is going through an unheard-of economic boom.
What effects does climate change have?
Numerous harmful repercussions of climate change include the following:
1. Global warming: The burning of fossil fuels releases gases that trap heat, known as greenhouse gases, which over time cause the climate of the Earth to gradually warm. Polar bears and penguins are only two examples of the species whose survival depends on arctic conditions, and we require many of those habitats for balance. Extreme heat waves that last for extended periods of time can hurt the ecosystem in the long run by generating famines and droughts that are dangerous for the entire world's population. By the end of the century, the temperature of the entire planet is expected to rise by five degrees Celsius.
2. Extreme weather patterns: Due to the atmosphere's interference with climate change, longer and more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, may occur. Storm surge makes oceans more unstable, while winds pick up speed, heat stress can have negative health consequences on people, and rainfall can change suddenly with severe results like flooding or drought.
3. Sea level rise is a result of more glaciers and ice sheets melting as the world's temperature rises. Our sea levels rise in direct proportion to the amount of melting sea ice and permafrost. Rising sea levels have the potential to overflow onto land, flooding coastal communities and driving people inland, decreasing the quantity of usable land for settlement. This increase may also drive out local wildlife and insects, resulting in a possible biological imbalance.
4. Habitat destruction: Due to climatic changes, some ecosystems may become unstable and unfit for natural life. Massive land destruction is brought on by wildfires and deforestation. Freshwater ecosystems can be lost to pollution, resulting in the extinction of important species for the area. Warming changes the pH of the water, leading to ocean acidification, which destroys other marine habitats and causes coral reefs to bleach.
5. Famine: Extreme weather conditions can make crop growth extremely difficult, resulting in a decrease in the amount of food that is available and inadequate food security. Famine is just one of several factors that can have an adverse influence on health and lead to widespread suffering and destruction.
6. Drought: While higher temperatures increase water evaporation, they can also reduce rainfall and snowfall in hotter regions. Increased evaporation can cause water resources to be depleted, causing drier land and severe droughts that can be disastrous for both animal habitats and agricultural activities.
7. Infectious diseases: Climate change creates the ideal set of circumstances for epidemic disease outbreaks. Environmental changes have a significant impact on mosquito populations. Because they thrive in warm, humid climates, viruses and pathogens like West Nile and dengue fever can spread more quickly in places where mosquitoes thrive.
8. Loss of biodiversity: Major extinction events may result from a changing climate. Ecosystems become unsteady when entire species disappear. A reduction in biodiversity indicates that the region has a smaller variety of living things, which can have disastrous long-term effects. The balance of the food chain and agricultural production can be disturbed by even a small reduction in the number of varied species in a given area, leading to a general imbalance in both the human and animal populations.
Climate Change and Environmental Inequalities:
The majority of the nations historically responsible for the greatest amount of greenhouse gas emissions are also the least susceptible to their effects. The most severe effects of climate change are first felt by developing nations, which often have less ability to adapt and react. Both immediate and long-term solutions, like migration, are used to deal with the effects. Thus, ties between poor and developed countries will increasingly be impacted by the issue of climate change.
Do you realize that a typical transatlantic round-trip flight produces about 1.6 metric tons of CO2? This amounts to approximately one person's average annual emissions in India. US citizens generate roughly 10 metric tons of CO2 annually just from flying.
Because they fly so frequently, celebrities like Paris Hilton, Jennifer Lopez, Emma Watson, and Bill Gates have been dubbed "super emitters" for having such high carbon footprints. The leader in this ranking is Bill Gates, whose private jet generated 1,600 metric tons of CO2 in 2017.
This demonstrates yet another disparity in regard to climate change: although everyone on earth will be impacted by it, very few people fly.
Degrees of global warming:
Earth's temperature has increased by around 1.1 °C since the 19th century. The different effects of 1.5°C or 2°C global warming are discussed in a recent UN report.
Although a few tenths of a degree may not seem like much, the effects of global warming might have a significant impact: they could put tens of millions more people at risk of deadly heatwaves, water shortages, and coastal floods. Additionally, a difference of half a degree might make the difference between a world with coral reefs and a year-round polar cap and one without.
World’s Carbon Budget:
The carbon budget is the total greenhouse gas emissions that humanity is still permitted to produce before the earth heats by 1.5°C (or 2°C, depending on the specified limit). Just as with other climate models, climate modeling is the foundation of these calculations. According to research, climate models frequently forecast the evolution of emissions and the resulting warming rather correctly. Therefore, there is a very real possibility of going over the 1.5 or 2 °C limit. Although estimates of when this will happen may differ by several decades, in general, every tenth of a degree has an impact on the standard of living. Applying the precautionary principle is therefore reasonable.
Where do we start?
Although it poses an existential threat to humanity, the changing climate has the power to effect the necessary transformation. We can build an economy based on regenerative resources and immaterialist behavioral patterns that will support us all without hurting the environment with the help of social and political reform, new technology and management techniques, and careful maintenance. However, in order to create a sustainable society, we must recognize, anticipate, and control our impact on the environment. This in turn necessitates structural adjustments, the advancement of research, the creation of environmentally friendly technologies, and a willingness on the part of people to alter their behavior.