We all have heard the word ‘Climate Change’ and know it is something very perilous and has negative consequences on our planet. But most people do not know what does it really means and how are they also contributing to it.
After reading this article you will come to know the science behind climate change and the causes and effects of the same.
Climate change and global warming are two words that we generally hear together and many people consider them as same. But the fact is that the two words are different and global warming results in climate change.
Causes of Climate Change
The atmosphere around the earth acts as a greenhouse and traps the heat of the sun to maintain the temperature on the earth. Without this shield, the temperatures on the earth would have reached -18 °C. But as the presence of certain gases (also known as greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere increases, they start trapping more heat in the atmosphere, causing the temperature on the earth to increase from what it naturally should be.
Human anthropogenic activities are the major reason for climate change. Let us look at some of the main reasons that are causing this catastrophe.
The Greenhouse Gases (GHG):
The gases like carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and the HFCs are known as the greenhouse gases as they increase the natural greenhouse effect of the atmosphere on the planet trapping the heat of the sun. These gases are released due to anthropogenic activities like the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, construction, etc. Some of GHGs are also released from livestock farming, agriculture, landfills etc.
The greenhouse effect is a process that occurs when energy from a planet’s sun goes through its atmosphere and warms the planet’s surface, but the atmosphere prevents the heat from returning directly to space, resulting in a warmer planet.
One of the major reasons behind climate change is deforestation and the change in the land ecosystem. The trees take in the carbon dioxide and give out oxygen maintaining the balance of the CO2 (one of the major GHG) in the atmosphere. But man has been destroying the forestland for its own selfish needs which has disturbed this balance. In the last 10 years, almost more than 13 million hectares of forestland have been wiped out worldwide.
The population of the world is increasing at an alarming rate. To meet the needs of this increasing population, more and more forestland is being destroyed. The increasing energy needs of the population are leading to the emission of GHGs from various sources of energy production. The number of vehicles has also increased on the road, again emitting increased CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
Agriculture and Farming:
The livestock cattle like sheep and cows release methane gas which is a GHG. As the need increases, more and more cattle are grazed in the open lands, which becomes a major contributor to the emission of methane gas into the atmosphere
Some pesticides used in agriculture contain nitrogen dioxide which is also a GHG.
Effects of Climate Change
Climate change affects almost everything from the place we live to the air we breathe or the water we drink. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2021, the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is “the most impactful” risk facing communities worldwide – ahead of even weapons of mass destruction and water crises.
As the temperature of the earth increases, more water is being evaporated, collected, and poured down in the form of rain. Due to this, the rain and summer patterns of the areas are changing making wetter regions more wet while dry areas more drier. The occurrence of natural calamities like floods, storms, cyclones, landslides, heat waves or drought is increasing year by year. People are losing their lives, places to live, their sources of income because of such ruinous events.
Rising sea levels:
Due to the rising temperatures, glaciers and ice sheets worldwide are melting and adding water to the ocean. Also, the volume of the ocean is expanding as the water warms. Global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches (21–24 centimeters) since 1880, with about a third of that coming in just the last two and a half decades.
Many cities across the world are in the threat of sinking. Bangkok is the world’s city most at risk from flooding due to rising sea levels.
Another sinking coastal city is Venice which is sinking at a rate of 1 millimeter a year.
New Orleans is another city, which is also sinking as per the reports. Roughly half of the city is already below sea level.
Other big cities that are at the threat of sinking are New York City, Miami, Mumbai in India, and Sydney in Australia.
Oceans are becoming warmer and acidic:
The oceans are considered to be the carbon sink, as they absorb around 25% of the CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. This has caused the ocean waters to become more acidic affecting the marine ecosystem. This has a dreadful effect on marine creatures especially the ones with calcified shells like oysters, clams, and corals. Many creatures are on the edge of extinction as they are not able to adapt to the rising water temperature and the altering chemistry of the water. The coral bleaching events are capable of killing the entire coral reefs that support more than 25% of the marine life.
Climate change is a fact and we all are contributing towards it and also facing the consequences. Governments all across the world are taking the necessary steps to reduce carbon emissions and achieve net-zero status.
There is a long way to go, but if each and every individual becomes aware and makes some changes in the lifestyle, we all can tackle this situation and protect our planet.
See How Can I Contribute to Reduce Global Warming?
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