Climate is the long term average weather conditions of different regions on earth. Some places are hot while others bear a cold climate. The different types of climates are namely, tropical, mid altitudinal, subtropical, arctic, subarctic, humid continental, Mediterranean, monsoon, desert and tropical wet-dry. The climate of the world is continuously changing. This change is not something new it is a very old concept perhaps since the birth of the universe.
The factors or reasoning for the climate change can be divided into two sides. One side is of the view that this is a natural process that will and has to occur whereas the other side claims that the change has occurred because of the human activities on the earth. later in our essay we will be discussing these reasoning in more depth and with the help of some facts and figures.
Distinction between climate and weather.
Most of the people use climate and weather terms synonymously, but the two terms have a difference between them. Climate is the long term average weather conditions of different regions on earth whereas weather is how the atmosphere behaves in a shorter period of time. Hence we can say that the distinct feature between weather and climate is the measure of time.
What is Global Warming and Global Dimming?
Global warming refers to the continuous warming of world’s surface. It occurs when the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) traps the heat and light from the sun around the atmosphere of Earth which forms the root cause of the temperature increase. Some of the greenhouse gases are, Carbon Dioxide, water vapor, methane etc.
Whereas Anup Shah said, Global dimming is the opposite of global warming and should not be confused with it. It is the average reduction in heat that is reaching the earth’s surface. Pollutants from the fossil fuels in the air results in the larger number of droplets which makes the clouds more reflective. More of the sun’s heat and light is therefore reflected back in the space. (Anup Shah, 2005)
Climate Change History Timeline:
Earth’s climate is unstable and is continuously changing. It has experienced several ice ages and warmer periods. To make things simpler and focused we can split the history of climate change into several phases. These phases are briefly discussed below:
If we look at “The Big Bang Theory” which is about the creation of the entire solar system. The temperature of the earth was very high because of which it expanded rapidly, and then it cooled down enough for rain, which became the source of the very first ocean on earth’s surface.
Then from 3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago, the first land masses appeared and life developed on the planet. The atmosphere was still toxic and mainly consisted of ammonia and methane, the sun was only 75% as bright as today, this may depicts that the surface was covered with ice, but in reality it was warmer, scientist justify this situation by saying that this was because of the greenhouse gases i.e. methane which prevented freezing.
Next phase is of about 2.5 to 500 million years ago. In this era the oxygen level on the surface started to increase, accompanied by the photosynthetic algae. There are enough evidences of glaciations periods in this era and scientists still discuss this scenario.
The Earth’s core finally cooled down to level comparable to today about 500 to 250 million years ago. The volcanic eruptions became rarer. Earth generally saw a lot of glacial activity in this period because of the two poles known as South and North Poles, which received very less solar energy. The rapid development of photosynthetic organisms made the air more breathable.
About 250 to 65 million years ago the climate of Earth became dry and seasonal with high temperature differences. More land came into contact with the oceans and therefore the humidity increased. This was the era of dinosaurs.
Then the dinosaurs went extinct and mammals took over around 65 to 2.7 million years ago. The planet experienced sudden warming during this period. The global temperature shot up by 5-8 degree Celsius. This warming was enhanced by the methane bubbles which were previously hidden beneath the ice sheets. About 33 million yearn ago the very first glaciers started to form in Antarctica; this means that the sea level fell and ice grew. Than from 2.7 million to 12000 years ago a lot of the surface of Earth was covered with ice. It is been estimated that there were 25-30 Ice Ages in the history. Around 12000 years ago the last Ice Age ended and the Earth again entered to a warmer phase. From 950 to 1250 the Vikings started to emigrate from Iceland, Greenland. Excellent weather in many regions of the Earth gave a boost to the population growth.
The things then rapidly changed in the 20th century when industrialization took place. It increased the temperature of Earth on a average of 0.7 degree Celsius.
The British Meteorological Office predicts that “2010 will become the hottest year” since the beginning of temperature records in 1880.
There are two sides of the debate as we have stated this earlier in our essay. One group supports the idea that the major causes of the global climate change are the activities by humans themselves. These activities include burning of fossil fuels, deforestation etc. the other group challenges this view with their research that the change is the natural process and it is occurring since the birth of the earth.
The world temperature is increasing and it is occurring due to the activities of the people living in this world. The major culprits of this process are the developed countries of the world whose economies significantly rely on industrialization which results into the excessive emissions of carbon in the atmosphere. United States was the leader in this case followed by UK, Germany, France etc, but now China is taking over the lead and becoming the number one cause of global warming. Pearce said, “China’s annual carbon dioxide emissions have indeed recently surpassed those of the US” (Fred Pearce, 2010). He further clarifies that this does not means that the whole blame should be given to China because industrialization is new to China and if we revise the statistics of carbon emissions we will come to know that major role in degrading the environment is played by other countries like US , UK, Germany and other countries of Europe.
An International team headed by Nikla Hohne from the Cologne, Germany, office of Ecofys. An international climate change consultancy came up with the findings from the country by country analysis of who has contributed to the climate change and to what extent. The team also look upon other greenhouse gases i.e. methane which is second most important after carbon dioxide. Methane is also produced by human activities from draining marshes and deforestation to cattle farming. Once methane was added to the analysis the team came up with evidence that the poor countries of the world play a much greater part in global warming. Hohne says, “Others do worse”. (Nikla Hohne, 2010). For instance Brazil’s contribution rises from1 percent to 5 percent of global total. Indonesia which extensively practices deforestation rises by a factor of between 10 to 90. The studies in this analysis estimated Indonesia as a third greatest contributor to global warming after China and US.
To overcome these problems and justify themselves developed countries claims that they are taking action to cut carbon emissions into the atmosphere. On example of this action is the Kyoto Protocol 1997. This protocol required the developed countries to start cutting emissions by almost 5 percent by 2008-2012. In this protocol certain quotas were assigned to industries. Within the limits of the quota they can pollute the environment. Larry Lohmann called it “The Magic of the Market”, (Larry Lohmann, 2002) because the a certain clause was added by the US elites in The Kyoto Protocol which allowed Northern countries to meet the emission targets by trading carbon dioxide with countries that had surplus. The trading of carbon did not solved the problem but in fact increased the climate change effect. Jens Stoltenberg who led a UN- commissioned task force to identify ways to raise finances which could be used in poor countries to deal with the climate change effects said, “Carbon pricing has a double climate effect- it’s a huge source for revenue, but also gives the right incentive for reducing emissions by making it expensive to pollute,” (Jens Stoltenberg, 2010). The Kyoto Protocol gave an other benefit to the industries that they can have a trade with the people who grow plants and trees as well. But it was impossible to calculate the intake of carbon by trees which make it ineffective. Larry Lohmann said that 30 more protocols with twice the level of Kyoto protocol are needed to rectify the situation. Otherwise the impact will be devastating.
According to a special report more than 1000 scientists globally are changing their opinion and saying that the process of change is natural. These scientists also included people from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). the report included comments by some well known people. for instance, Nobel Prize-Winning Stanford University Physicist Dr. Robert B. Laughlin, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1998, and was formerly a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said “Please remain calm: The Earth will heal itself — Climate is beyond our power to control…Earth doesn’t care about governments or their legislation. You can’t find much actual global warming in present-day weather observations. Climate change is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.” (Dr.Robert, 2010). The scientist said that greenhouse effect is not permanent and the predictions of global warming are not supported by the reliable data by IPCC.
The economic crisis in 2009 which was very severe and affected almost every nation in the world resulted in the reduction in the carbon emissions. A report from Nature Geoscience supports this statement by giving the figures like 1.3 percent reduction in the emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to the global financial crisis. The article by Hoffman says that estimated carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation have also been reduced. Doug L. Hoffman said “carbon dioxide will rise by 4.8% In 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcomed in climate change circles”. Doug L. Hoffman, 2010).
After analyzing the both sides with reference to the articles. I am of the opinion that climate is changing because of the anthropogenic global warming i.e. made by the human activities. It is the humans themselves who are threatening their own home. They have increased the activities which involve the emission of greenhouse gases.
Increased industrialization is the root cause of the problem in which dangerous gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapors etc are emitted in the atmosphere. On the other hand I we consider third world countries where there is less industrialization we come to know that they are also the major contributors in degrading the environment. They emit methane which is second most dangerous after carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere in the process of deforestation which is required for the agricultural needs to grow food and other cash crops. A classic example of this earlier given in this essay is of Indonesia and Brazil. All these emissions give rise to the greenhouse effect in which the greenhouse gases (GHG’s) accumulate around the surface of earth and block the rays from the sun. some part of these rays are reflected back into the space and the remaining enter the atmosphere were again some of it is reflected back by the intersection with clouds and other part reaches the surface. The surface of the earth also reflects back some rays which are than trapped by these GHG’s. This whole process gives a boost to the temperature of the Earth. The more the emissions of GHG’s the more the impact will be. The image below illustrates the situation more clearly.
The carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 0.5 percent per year and it is a major contributor in the greenhouse effect with almost 60 percent of share. The emissions of CFC’s are also increasing because of the increased use of refrigerators etc. These anthropogenic activities will cause an average increase in the global temperatures between 1.5°C and 6.8°C from 2000 to 2100.
From my point of view we are unable to rectify the devastating impacts of global warming and other anthropogenic activities with the help of Protocols like Kyoto Protocol because they are bias and are in the interest of only certain parties. Although we have placed the price on the carbon that is being emitted in the environment but have given industries some benefits as well that in this cause can be quasi property rights. We have designed the protocol but we are almost unable to implement it because the measurement required is very difficult.
Whereas on the other hand I do not oppose the second group complete because there is to some extent reality in their piece of work. When they say that the anthropogenic global warming is not supported by the accurate data by the concerned organizations they are right. Some of the changes in the climate also occur because of the natural changes in the conditions, for instance. Hurricanes, floods etc. some scientist also claim that the change in the climate is because of the uncertainty in the earths orbit.
In the end I would like to conclude by saying that from my point of view the major cause of the climate change is the anthropogenic activities i.e. global warming and global dimming which are caused by the increased use of fossil fuels. It is we humans who are responsible for this and at the same time it is we who are unable to control its devastating impacts on our climate.
If the process will continue with the same pace, one day we will have to bear a lot of problems the ice in the south will start melting which will increase the water level of the world. Higher temperature will cause increased earthquakes, the rare species on earth will extinct, their will be food shortages which will affect our increasing population. Increased sea levels will cause tsunamis. All these consequences have there own further impacts on the economies of the countries. Therefore more practical steps should be initiated by the related agencies in controlling the problem. As an individual we people also have to bear some responsibility towards the climate. We should try to adopt environmental friendly techniques in our daily routine work.