There is a lot of information on climate change.
But, for the average person, the layman, how much of climate change do people really understand? It is commonly said that what you don’t know, won’t hurt you, until it kills you.
That’s why this article would be explaining climate change in its simplest form. What exactly is climate change? It’s a change in the pattern of weather for an extended period of time.
Climate itself is the average weather condition of a place over a given period of time. Don’t confuse it with weather, which is what’s going on in the atmosphere at a point in time. We can in other words say climate is what we expect and weather is what we get.
The earth has a natural system of regulating its climate, this happens by a balance in the energy entering and leaving the earth. Scientists have over time observed changes in climate before the Industrial Revolution, which has been attributed to variations in the sun’s energy reaching the earth, volcanic eruptions and changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases.
Yes! Climate change is not new in the block, so what’s all the fuss about? Before the Industrial Revolution there was a balance in the natural sources of greenhouse gases and the carbon sinks, however in the last 50 years the earth’s average temperature has been doubled, this trend cannot be attributed to the natural cycle but to anthropogenic contributions.
The earth has a blanket of gases in its atmosphere responsible for keeping it warm, without this blanket the earth would be freezing with a temperature of 18 degrees centigrade. The blanket of gasses around the earth are known as the greenhouse gases, these gases helps trap the excess sun rays. 70% of the overall sunlight radiated by the sun is being swallowed up by the earth (soil, ocean and plants) and the other 30% is bounced off and tries to escape until it is being trapped by the blanket of gases around the earth which re-emits some of it back down to the earth, this process is known as the Greenhouse Effect.
This re-emitted heat is responsible for warming the earth by 33 degrees. The major greenhouse gases are Carbon Dioxide, Water Vapor, Methane, Ozone, Nitrous Oxide and other chlorofluorocarbons.
Human activities have resulted in the vast increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere without a balance in the sink.
Humans have no immediate influence on the level of water vapor, however Carbon Dioxide is being introduced into the atmosphere by the process of burning fossil fuels, deforestation.
Methane is introduced by the decomposition of waste in landfills and agriculture. Nitrous oxide is produced by the use of organic fertilizers while chlorofluorocarbons are generated from industries which particularly destroys the ozone layer. The ability of these gases to trap heat is changing our climate in multiple ways.
Climate change is closely related to Global Warming which is the observed rise in average temperature of the earth’s climate system. This rise is most likely to continue at a projected temperature of 2 and 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century.
Effect of climate change on the environment
The effect of climate change cuts across all aspects of human life and environment, it is not the same everywhere, some places may become warmer and others become cooler, however the most notable effects climate change is having or predicted to have on the environment include:
- Heat Waves: 2015 to 2018 has been recorded as the four hottest years ever. Heat waves are more frequent worldwide, in more naturally arid areas, droughts and wildfires are intensifying leading to loss of plant and animal species which are displaced due to the disasters. It has also been recorded that lots of deaths during this period can be attributed to heat waves and drought cause by the heat wave.
- Shrinking Sea Ice: It has been observed that Artic Ice, mountain glaciers and ice sheet covering West Antarctica and Greenland are melting in an alarming rate of 9% per decade, this might not be seen itself as being threatening but lots of animals whose habitat(s) is the ice are being displaced. Much of the melting ice contributes to sea level rise which in turn contributes to flooding.
- Rise in Sea Level: Much of the melting sea ice contribute to sea level rise. Global sea level rise is at 0.13 inches a year (National Geographic). Sea levels are still expected to rise between 10 and 32 inches by the end of the century.
- Loss of Plant and Animal species: Climate change is affecting wild life globally, especially the polar bears and ringed seals whose natural habitat is melting due to the warmer temperatures. Animals in the rain forest are also at risk as their habitats are being burnt down by wildfires
- Drought: Precipitation has changed, rainfall pattern is becoming unpredictable across the globe and especially in developing countries. Where the rainfall has increased, lots of flooding is destroying plants. The heat waves are high, bringing about low soil moisture retention. All this has led to a drop in food production levels as the climate is no longer favorable for planting.
- Ocean Acidification: The ocean is 40 percent more acidic than it used to be (Environmental Defense Fund). Oceans are a vital carbon sink, nearly a third of the emitted carbon dioxide ends up in the ocean, preventing it from reaching the atmosphere. Increased water temperature and higher carbon dioxide concentration than normal is triggering a chemistry change and making the ocean more acidic.
We are stopping here,stay tuned for part 2 where we will be discussing Effect of climate change on you and me and ongoing control measures. Stay Tuned!!